France, Japan


The Adamant is a unique day care centre : it is a floating structure. Located on the Seine in the heart of Paris, it welcomes adults suffering from mental disorders, offering them care that grounds them in time and space, and helps them to recover or keep up their spirits. The team running it is one of those that try to resist the deterioration and dehumanization of psychiatry as best it can. The film invites us to board it and meet the patients and caregivers who invent its life day to day.

Director's Statement

I first heard about the Adamant fifteen years ago, when it was still just a project. At the time, the clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst Linda de Zitter, to whom I have remained very close since the filming in 1995 of Every Little Thing at the La Borde psychiatric clinic, was involved in the exciting adventure of its creation: for months, patients and carers had been meeting with a team of architects to define its key components. And what started out as a utopian dream finally came true.
A few years ago, I had a first opportunity to go to the Adamant. Rhizome, a conversation group, had invited me to come and talk about my work. From time to time, they invite somebody: a musician, a novelist, a philosopher… That day, I had spent two hours with people that had prepared for my visit by watching some of my films and continually forced me out of my comfort zone. Since starting out as a filmmaker, I have had many opportunities to speak in front of an audience, but this time it left me particularly invigorated, spurred on by the remarks of the people who were there. Contrary to popular belief, people who suffer from mental disorders are often very lucid, intelligent and cultured. They are hypersensitive people, and that’s why they touch me so much. The wish to make another film in the world of psychiatry, to "see who I am elsewhere", had been with me for a long time, and that day reinforced my desire.
Psychiatry is a world that is both disturbing and, dare I say, very stimulating, insofar as it constantly forces us to think about ourselves, our limits, our flaws, and the way the world works. It is a magnifying glass, an enlarging mirror that says a lot about us, about our humanity. Moreover, in the last twenty-five years, the situation of public psychiatry has deteriorated considerably: budget cuts, bed closures, lack of personnel, demotivation of the teams, dilapidated premises, carers snowed under with administrative tasks and often reduced to the role of simple guards, the return to isolation rooms and restraint. There has never been a golden age, but we hear from all sides that psychiatry is now at the end of its tether, completely abandoned by the authorities. It is as if we no longer wanted to see the "mad". They are no longer discussed except through the prism of their dangerous nature, which is most often fantasized. This decline was undoubtedly an additional motivation for me.
In this devastated context, a place like the Adamant seems a little miraculous, and we have to wonder how long it will last. Until now, it has managed to remain a lively and attractive place, both for patients and carers, because it does not rest on its laurels. While most psychiatric care centres are closed places, the Adamant is constantly in touch with the outside world, open to everything that is happening, and which welcomes all kinds of contributors. A place that strives to do work on itself, in line with "institutional psychotherapy", that current of thought with a rather barbaric name that prescribes that, in order to care for people - and to keep desire alive - the institution must be cared for, that it must fight relentlessly against everything that inevitably threatens it: repetition, hierarchy, withdrawal, inertia, bureaucracy... And the place itself is very beautiful, which counts for a lot: the spaces, the materials, its location, the proximity of the water, when most similar units, without always being sinister, are content to be functional.
There is no "one" form of psychiatry, it is plural, multiple. The kind I wanted to show is this human psychiatry that resists and that is so under threat. A psychiatry that still considers patients as subjects, recognizing their singularity without seeking to domesticate it at all costs. A psychiatry that fumbles, but for which the basis is still the human relationship, the encounter. A psychiatry that resists everything that is destroying society everywhere and tries to remain dignified. That resists the steamroller of neo-liberalism which reduces everything to money and profitability. The film is not explicitly one that denounces things. It does so implicitly, by stating them. As the filmmaker Jean-Louis Comolli wrote shortly before his death, "the true political dimension of cinema is to ensure that the dignity of people is recognized by others, between the screen and the audience".
When shooting, I wanted to feel free and not impose anything on myself. Not to have to worry too much about the film's structure, convinced that the unity of place, along with the identifiable and recurring "characters", would be enough to constitute the cement and allow for undisciplined construction. Following characters, losing them, finding them later, filming a meeting, a workshop, the greeting of a newcomer, filming private conversations, informal exchanges: at reception, at the bar, on the deck, between two doors, catching an exchange on the fly, a monologue, a play on words, and recording all these little details that one might find trivial, eccentric, anecdotal or simply idiotic, and that would become the very fabric of the film we were making.
I've always liked to improvise, and over time, improvisation has become an ethical necessity for me. Above all, explain nothing. Film to learn, not to teach. Avoid subjecting the film to a programme, to pre-existing ideas that have to be expressed. Welcome the unexpected. A filmmaker should only show what he does not yet know. Making a documentary means dealing with the accidental, with everything that escapes predictions. Moreover, nothing ever goes as planned, the presence of a camera always reshuffles the cards. The most beautiful scenes are often those that come about by surprise, without premeditation. For me, the most important thing is to have a solid starting point, like the promise that something will blossom. "I write my books to find out what's in them," used to say the writer Julien Green. I could adopt that line for myself.


Cast & Crew

Directed by: Nicolas Philibert

Main Producer: Miléna Poylo, Gilles Sacuto, Céline Loiseau

Cinematography: Nicolas Philibert

Original Score: Dominique Massa

Sound: Erik Ménard, François Abdelnour, Nathalie Vidal

Nominations and Awards

  • European Documentary 2023
  • LUX Audience Award 2024
  • Documentary Selection 2023