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2014年12月9日 星期二

Dans la Cour (In the Courtyard) (盡在庭院中)

According to certain studies, some 300,000 people are suffering from a most debilitating psychological but seldom recognized or admitted disorder in Hong Kong with only a quarter of them seeking treatment. That disorder is depression (the "blues"), a kind of emotional state in which one feels inextricably irritable or sad, hollow, apathetic, lethargic and life appears meaningless, hopeless and one suffers from restless and sleepless nights, loses appetite, has unexplained headaches or other body pains, has no will to budge, can't remember things, can't concentrate on one's study or one's work or control one's thoughts and perhaps as a result thereof feels trapped, helpless, worthless or guilty or one starts drinking or taking drugs and becomes subject to unnameable fears and becomes reluctant to bestir oneself from one's bed or refuses to leave one's room or one's house and see others or to talk to them or otherwise to go out and do the kind of things which one previously take great delight in including sex or one's favorite hobbies. In a serious case, one may even begin to have suicidal thoughts. Some describe this condition as “living in a black hole” or in a devotional and mystical context, one calls it "the dark night of the soul" or simply "spiritual dryness".

But depression seems an endemic disorder, not just confined to modern day Hong Kong. In the film "Dans La cour", Pierre Salvadori (who studied film and drama at the Sorbonne, had made 10 films, mostly comedies) portrays the new life as a concierge by an ex-musician Antoine Le Garrec (Gustave Kervern) who had had enough of life. All the action takes place in the courtyard of an old fashioned Parisian mansion. There he meets all kinds of people with problems of their own: a fastidious man living on the third floor who always complains about other tenants/owners' placing things in the courtyard, noises at night etc, an ex-footballer who received a leg injury whose insurance company bought the apartment he's now living in and who is now obsessed with the idea of making some money by selling repaired second-hand bicycles but whose stock keep accumulating because he never made any sales, a semi-retarded gentle giant of a man with a huge dog who is hooked on a minor Indian cult advocating the angel of light and who had no place to stay and begged to be allowed to stay in the storeroom on the cellar and finally Matilde (Catherine Deneuve), the recently retired lady in her 50's who is now doing some voluntary counseling work who for some reasons has become paranoiac about certain harmless cracks in the building in which she and her husband are the managers and who chose Antoine for the vacant post of concierge cum handyman although he did not have any qualifications for the job simply because, as she told her husband, she got an "intuition" that he was the right man for that post.


As the action unfolded, we begin to see how many people in the mansion all got their own different forms of mild psychological disorders: excessive suspicion and nervousness, dependence on hopes salvation from some obscure supernatural entities, alcohol and drugs.  But the main focus of the film is the gradually developing relationship of trust between Matilde and Antoine. As Matilde's condition got worse especially after she arranged a disastrously messy neighborhood meeting with  another equally paranoiac old lady, (the proprietress of a local bookshop) in which they tried to alert their neighbors about the" hidden and real dangers" of subsidence of the subsoil upon the foundation of which the buildings of the quartier were built, despite a professional report she ordered upon the rather casual suggestion by Antoine that if she was not sure, she ought to consult an "expert", which report gave her building a clean bill of structural health. As Matilde's insomnia got worse, Antoine managed to persuade her to go to some places which previously gave her joy. She trusted Antoine because he said that he might not know much about anything else but he was an "expert in depression". So together they went to the house in which Matilde grew up as a child " But it didn't work out. She found to her horror that all sections of the her former home which she treasured as a child had been torn down and her favorite oak tree was reduced to just a giant stub in their garden and she began yelling at the surprised and confused young housewife who is now the new owner. When the film ends, we find Matilde huddled on a bed on the the cramped ground floor room of Antoine and suddenly and finding him slumped on the toilet floor because of an unexpected cardiac arrest, due probably to too much beer and coke. But the sudden death of Antoine appeared to have saved Matilde, who was shocked into the realization of the importance of keeping going on, as suggested by the gentle Antoine and finding meaning in her life by writing about her experience.

In the Courtyard is a very peculiar film. Not much seems to be happening and yet so many things have happened in that tiny microcosm of the old Parisian courtyard: tiny details in the lives of ordinary people caught with their petty idiosyncratic worries, anxieties, foibles and obsessions and the ironies of life in which one helpless person may in bizarre and unexpected ways become the support of other equally mildly maladjusted people. A great deal of credit must go to Gustave Kerver and Catherine Deneuve who respectively portray so well the amiable, gentle and calm and always obliging Antoine who did not know how to say "no" to the sometimes excessive demands of the tenants, occupiers and owners including a literal and spiritual tramp and the slightly paranoiac Matilde plunging deeper and deeper into the slippery downward spiral of depression and ultimately finding comfort in the sympathetic, unassuming words and tiny offers of help and perhaps even by the mere physical presence of Antoine as a fellow sufferer who as she says understands her and is always there when she needs him. A unique and unimitable blend of the small ridiculousnesses and pathos of an otherwise unremarkable portion of that sprawling metropolis called Paris.