He accepts it. He's chosen to await his death here, in this house by the sea, the house of his childhood. I'm with him. It's still summer. I never realized people could die in the summer.
I thought death was something that always happened in winter, that it needed the cold, gray skies and bleakness. But I realize it can also do its deed in the sun, in broad daylight. I think that Thomas will welcome it in the broad daylight.
This winter, when he was hospitalized, I thought it would begin with a numbness in his arms and legs, that he'd have some kind of contraction, and then there would be an emergency, something sudden, something brutal. But not at all: instead there's a nonchalance, a kind of emptiness, a sluggishness, a renunciation under the summer heat.
Still, this foreseeable, expected death will bring about a cataclysm. It will affect all of our lives. It will modify them, force them into a new, unexpected direction. It will throw our lives out of whack, without any of us being able to fight it. This death will be the most important event.
My brother is dying.
It examines the skin, the folds, wrinkles, down and sweat. Bruises, contusions and red blotches, shoulders that are bared, pants, socks and stockings that are slipped off, the marks they leave. Purplish scars, suppurations, stains an the bed sheets.
Filming from different angles, from above and from below. Close up or from a distance. Beards that grow, sweaters that are lifted or pulled off, a shirt that opens to expose a breast, body hair that is shaven, hair that grows back, a bra strap that slips off, a shoulder, a back.
A silent movie with, at times, a good deal of talking. Speech that gets interrupted or overlaps. Speech that repeats itself and suddenly breaks off. A film about silence.
A film in black-and-white with a good deal of color: the color of faces, their paleness, the color of skin, the most beautiful of colors, a color that helps one live and restores hope.
A world where you can do nothing for others, where no one can help anyone, where the head doctor in the end admits she knows nothing and can find no solution. A mother who lives in her own dream world, a remote father, one who talks too much, the other not enough. A whole family the narrator had stopped seeing and that now sweeps down on him, all these people who re-appear for the occasion: a family has slipped into the procession of death throes. No one makes love anymore, desire is dead, bodies have grown cold and silent, gazes are impenetrable.
A simple little film about something fairly ordinary, an illness that isn't the worst of diseases but that can still be fatal; an illness you can live with provided you accept the abiding risk of an accident. That's it: you have to accept the risk. That's what the film is all about. Thomas can't accept it.
But in the end, compassion resides with the survivor: this younger broth who is taken hostage, so to speak, and who holds his older brother in arms, massages him, embraces him. And takes him hostage, in turn.
A short film, a fast-flowing film. Something like a fragment. Or else, a still life. A fragment or two of universal pain.
Ale the English-language INTIMACY, SON FRERE marks Chereau's return to French-language film. Chereau's historical epic QUEEN MARGOT starring Isabelle Adjani, debuted at the 1994 Cannes Festival after the director spent years researching and adapting Dumas' classic novel. His 1983 film THE WOUNDED MAN created a stir at the Cannes Festival because of its frank sexual portrait of a troubled young man caught up in the sordid world of a train station. Also presented at the Cannes Festival, 1998's THOSE WHO LOVE ME CAN TAKE THE TRAIN told the story of several persons traveling by train to an artist friend's funeral.
Chéreau made his film directorial debut with 1974's FLESH OF THE ORCHID, adapted from James Hadley Chase's novel and starring Charlotte Rampling. His second film, 1978's JUDITH THERPAUVE, starred Simone Signoret defending a small-town newspaper in financial peril. For his 1987 comedy-drama HOTEL DE FRANCE, Chéreau worked with his then-students from the Theatre des Amandiers: Laurent Grevill, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Vincent Perez, Marianne Denicourt, Agnes Jaoui and Bruno Todeschini, among others. Chéreau was director of the prestigious Theatre des Amandiers (Nanterre) for nearly a decade during the 80s. 1988's "Hamlet" and several stagings of the works of Bernard-Marie Koltès are among Chéreau's numerous successes since he began directing for the stage in the mid-60s, His most recent Paris production is Racine's "Phaedra" with Dominique Blanc (January 2003, still running).
Chéreau has been equally successful as a director of opera, notably associated with the works of Alban Berg, such as his 1979 staging of "Lulu" and 1992's "Wozzeck". Chéreau's 16-hour 1976 production of Wagner's Ring in Bayreuth (conductor: Pierre Boulez) has become legendary.
Chéreau also occasionally acts in films, most recently in Tonie Marshall's NEAREST TO HEAVEN, starring Catherine Deneuve and William Hurt. His other acting credits include Andrzej Wajda's DANTON, Claude Berri's LUCIE AUBRAC, Michael Mann's THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, Michael Haneke's WOLFZEIT and playing Napoleon in Youssef Chahine's ADIEU BONAPARTE.
Cast & Crew
Directed by: Patrice Chéreau
Written by: Anne-Louise Trivdic, Patrice Chéreau
Produced by: Pierre Chevalier
Cinematography: Eric Gautier
Editing: François Gédigier
Main Cast: Bruno Todeschini (Thomas), Eric Caravaca (Luc), Maurice Garrel (old man)
Nominations and Awards
- European Actor 2003
- Feature Film Selection 2003