Living and Knowing You’re Alive
Filmmaker Alain Cavalier and novelist and screenwriter Emmanuèle Bernheim have been friends for 30 years. They’re working on a film of her autobiographical book about her father’s self-chosen death. Cavalier plays her father, while Bernheim plays herself. But then she falls ill.
Cavalier is unperturbed. “We’ll make the film as we are when we make it,” he assures her. As they wait to resume their work, the painful progress of Emmanuèle’s illness is related discreetly through phone calls, diary entries and letters. Meanwhile, the film veteran Cavalier (b. 1931), who makes both feature films and documentaries, records his surroundings using a simple camera. With his own interior monologue as commentary, this produces another story: about the imminent death of a friend in relation to his own life.
Lying on a bed, Cavalier films himself practicing the death scene of Emmanuèle’s father. He holds his breath, but gasping for air, he returns almost euphorically. And thus a film in which death is omnipresent proves to be a subtle ode to life—tender and frank, without being sentimental or voyeuristic.