French films exploring hospitals in detail seem to be something of a trend in documentary cinema, at least if two films are enough to make a trend. Last year’s DocPoint brought us spectacular vistas from within the human body with De Humani Corporis Fabrica (2022) from Vérena Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor. Veteran director Claire Simon’s Our Body focuses not on the hospital establishment but on patient encounters and the range of emotions these interactions arouse. Premiered at the 2023 Berlinale and filmed at a gynecology ward at Hôpital Tenon in Paris, the film also documents recent protests against an endometriosis doctor accused of treating patients brutally. Despite the intrigue, Simon chooses to zoom in on everyday life at the hospital, and the human body as it goes through different stages in life.
Hôpital Tenon was the birthplace of Edith Piaf, among others, but we are not here to review cultural history. We are living in the here and now, trying to stay alive and perhaps even create new life. At an infertility clinic, a sperm sample is analysed and the sperm count is found low. ”But just the one is enough,” whispers Simon hopefully from behind the camera. The director also puts herself on the spot, as during filming, she has to climb on the examination table and become one of the patients.
Tytti Rantanen (translated by Virpi Sumu)