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CANNES 2021 Competition

Catherine Corsini • Director of The Divide

“To consider oneself, to consider others and have some hope in the fact that people can talk to each other”


- CANNES 2021: The French filmmaker discusses her at once funny and dramatic film unveiled in competition, which through fiction delves into a very agitated night at the hospital

Catherine Corsini  • Director of The Divide
(© Chaz Productions)

With The Divide [+see also:
film review
interview: Catherine Corsini
film profile
, presented in competition at the 74th Cannes Film Festival, Catherine Corsini intersects, over one hospital night, several hot social issues that are dividing France.

Cineuropa: Where did you get the idea of blending together in a film the crises of the Yellow Vests and of the White Coats?
Catherine Corsini: I wanted to make a film about today and about activism, but I wasn’t sure how to get into that. And like in the film, because the actress represents me a lot, I fell, I broke my elbow, and I found myself in the emergency room on 1 December 2018, the day of the First Act of the Yellow Vests. So I made a slightly surrealist collage. There was also something quite surrealist about the Yellow Vests, who took the roundabouts, which were useless places, and turned them into living spaces. And that symbol of the yellow vest! I found that there were some rather funny elements and I coupled that with that night in the emergency room, the work of the caregivers, and with the fact that I was also a bit high on medicine. I had my first vision and I told my friend that it would be a pretty incredible playground, this night in the hospital.

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There’s also a Marx Brothers aspect: wanting to put everything in a shoebox, tightening up everything, shaking up everything, to create dynamism. And also the idea of bringing in something intimate and political. But there were a lot of pitfalls, like being didactic or preachy. I told myself I had to position the film from my point of view, that of a woman of a certain age who already has a social position that is different from that of the people she is going to meet, and how the exchanges will shake up her beliefs, and also shake up the other characters who themselves are caught in what they represent. The hospital also makes us all equal in the face of sickness, of pain, of the glitches that have happened to us. We are all stopped at a moment in our lives: we are going somewhere and boom, we find ourselves in the hospital and that really isn’t the place where we would like to be. It’s the place where everything stops and we are forced to reconsider what is around us. The plot of the film, it’s that we come into the hospital and we come out of it: it’s one night and all the elements that will pile up during it. We come out of it with a feeling that we couldn’t take it anymore, that we finally have a prescription or that we’ve been cured, at least that we have an inventory of our health status. How we come into this place and out it, that’s the whole point of the film, the challenge of knowing how that night will unfold.

At first, all the people passing through the hospital don’t listen to each other, but they will end up doing it, with each still remaining in his or her place.
Because each of them has a rather strong identity, represents a social class, a place, a profession. They are all connected by the fact that they are working: not being able to draw because of her broken elbow is a nightmare for the Raf character, the Yann character can no longer drive his truck, and around them there’s the work of this hospital world which is fired up. The metaphorical idea is that this hospital under pressure with so many people arriving is an impossible thing: society is doing so badly, people are so broken up by the political events of the moment, but also by common things (someone had a shelf fall on their head, another cut their hand, etc.). It’s a kind of pile up that I liked: it comes in and it keeps coming in. I did some research, I spent many nights at the hospital with nurses and mind blowing, extravagant things happened. They are overwhelmed, and we feel a society that isn’t doing well, that is in pain, that is looking for shelter in a place that has less and less means of responding to this distress. This was even more evident with the COVID crisis because it amplified these terrible moments experienced by the entire chain of caregivers.

The film is a metaphor of a France that is really unwell, but that remains very alive.
People are focused on their illness, their wounds, they wonder how they will be taken care of, but they also look at the other person next to them, and at one point they start sharing: “and you, how is it going?” We need to stop looking down on people. The film talks about that: to consider oneself, to consider others and have some hope in the fact that people can talk to each other, that something happens through talking, through the gaze and through the acceptance of the other.

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(Translated from French)

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