Raymond Depardon captures the final days of a psychiatric asylum. The Venetian island of San Clemente, also known as the "island of lunatics", was home to a mental institution for over 150 years. During a movement in Italyagainst the institutionalisation of people with mental illnesses it was closed down and the inmates (apart from the serious cases who were transferred to other clinics) were set free, as per the motto "freedom heals".
In 1980, Depardon visited San Clemente, a place he had been previously to shoot a series of photos. This time he took his movie camera. Over 10 days, he filmed daily life within the asylum shortly before it was closed down and created a unique piece of cinema, a reference point in the field of documentaries, which offers us an insight into a world that is normally closed to us. As a filmmaker, Depardon's usual method of disappearing like a chameleon in the landscape doesn't work here. He and his camera become an active part of the film as the inmates meet him with either aggression or indifference. Through long takes and without explanatory commentary, San Clemente shows the preparation for freedom from the patients' perspective.
"Look… There… The eye that watches you… And with the mic? Can you hear? Thank you and goodbye!". "Which company is it? Paramount? 20th Century Fox?". "You should look for a job… A decent job!"
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Camera: Raymond Depardon. Sound: Sophie Ristelhueber. Editing: Olivier Froux. Production: Pari Films. Producer: nn. Length: 100 min. Distribution: Freunde der Deutschen Kinemathek