12 Days Screen 8 articles

12 Days


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  • An older man paces inside a small patch of gated lawn, a curtain of mist wavering in the background. . . . As this lonely man paces back and forth, it would be easy to see him as merely an inmate. What Mr. Depardon would like you to see, I think, in this lucid, focused and adamant documentary is something more profound: a man who, whatever the threat he might pose to himself or to others, deserves basic human rights.

  • 12 Days gives room for the faces of the mentally ill to expose their humanity and for “madness” to actually speak. The film, then, reveals the strange way in which mental illness can coincide with brazen lucidity. . . . These seem like highly intelligent individuals except that their well articulated arguments for being freed abide by a different kind of logic—perhaps that of the dream, rife with ambivalence and contradiction.

  • In France, psychiatrists have the power to hospitalize people without their consent; within 12 days, these patients must meet with a judge who decides their fate. This deeply compassionate, complex, unflinching film records these hearings with a staunchly objective camera, conjuring a kind of purgatory, but to call it "Kafkaesque" would be to render a judgment the film refuses to make. Instead, it asks only that we bear witness to the stories of these troubled, broken human beings.

  • Seasoned documentarian Raymond Dépardon took his observational eye to the judicial hearings that a recent French law has required take place for psychiatric patients interned against their will, with results that were in turns comic and emotionally shattering.

  • As anyone who has had the good fortune to catch any of his documentaries will know, a deceptive simplicity characterises the work of Raymond Depardon. And it is that quality that makes this latest gem from the veteran French filmmaker and photographer so admirably lucid and so heartbreakingly sad.

  • Depardon pulls off the neat trick of being both impartial and compassionate in 12 Days (12 Jours), a soberly filmed but emotionally gratifying introduction to an array of involuntary patients in a French psychiatric hospital.

  • The distressing momentum of scrutinising shattered psyche after shattered psyche is broken up, firstly by slow shots that roll through the corridors of the hospital like a gurney, and secondly by three sections of wrenchingly lovely music, composed by Alexandre Desplat. It’s a quietly devastating film.

  • Rarely, if only in Urgences or classics like Frederick Wiseman's Titicut Follies or John Huston's Let There Be Light, has a filmmaker been able to document madness in such a direct way, with Depardon showing extreme compassion in how he captures his patients as they pour their hearts out to the judge. These people may be deeply disturbed, but they come across as highly empathetic and even quite funny despite the very dark lives they lead.