Patients and staff members at La Borde, a remarkable psychiatric clinic in France, rehearse for their annual stage show. When this facility in the Loire region opened in the 1950s, its approach to treating psychiatric patients was groundbreaking. It is difficult to tell carer and resident apart here: staff members don’t wear white coats, and patients are free to wander wherever they want in this picturesque castle.
Conversations with the main protagonists are interspersed with scenes that follow these occasional actors. Being an operetta, this year’s production provides plenty of opportunities for absurd dialogue and dressing up in silly hats. The ups and downs in the preparations and the inevitable return to the daily grind offer a sometimes touching, sometimes tragicomic spectacle. After making this award-winning feel-good documentary in 1997, Nicolas Philibert followed with his 2002 classic, Être et avoir, in the same genre.