An ex-shrink became a documentarist to tell the story of the soldiers back from the First World War with an invisible illness : psychosis.
Annie Vacelet-Vuitton shows her two short documentaries in the famous SCAM screening room, the french society of authors, in april 2014 for the first time. You may be able to see them if you are in Montreuil (France) in next october 14. « Come in, you can be healed, there are so many shrinks inside » says Annie, with her so lol humour. The truth is that if most of the public is professional and concerned by the issue of psychic illness, it is because of Vacelet-Vuitton’s sympathies she created years before. And the the patient to heal is not one and only person, not just us and you, there are so many that we can just name them as « the 20th century ».
The disease is not clear but the symptoms are: exaltation in 1914 followed by great suffering, millions of deaths until 1918 then it started again in 1939, up to 120 millions (estimated) of people directly or indirectly from the consequences of the two wars. But what about the living ones? The survivors, who came back from the battlefield with no visible wounds. Through her two short experimental movies, the director tries to remind us to the fate of these soldiers who returned literally mad from the horrors of this « industrialized » war that was 14-18. Actors read the letters of some of them who where then institutionalized in Ville-Evrard famous french hospital (20 minutes from paris for those interested in psychiatric historical tourism).
« European nations are left lifeless » after the first and the second world war says Vacelet-Vuitton. Empty of life, empty of joy. The soldiers who came back physically intact were infected with an illness that was less obvious than pneumonia or a missing leg or dismantled jaw. Most of the survivors were broken, mentally more than physically. The night of the living dead was not a fiction for those of them who witnessed the bodies of their comrades emerging again from the mud they were buried in, just after a day or night of rain. Horror.
Dumbness as mechanism of self-protection
War was haunting the ex-shrink long before she decides to become a filmmaker in 2003, in her early 50’s. She had this grand-father who came back from the battle of the Dardanelles (Gallipoli) alive, but « pathologically violent and alcoholic. My father had to live with that. And I had to live with my father !« . Also there are all theses children Vuicelet-Vatton treated in some CPMs, those structures inherited from the First War. Annie listened to many stories of these children who survived the modern wars of the 90’s. WW I was « a leap forward for phsychatry, she says. I was tretaing these children with the works of Freud on the concept of trauma while the politicians ironically banned his books during that time« .
War haunt us all. In our family history. In the news. It’s in the streets of every major city in 2003, when Vacelet-Vuitton took her DV camera and started to shoot all these people contesting Georges W. Bush‘s plan to bring « justice and freedom » to Iraq. From a war to another : in her first documentary, Ville-Evrard hospital opens its archives just for her to discover the files of thousands of soldiers who came back crazy from the 14-18. By chance, she mets the file of Camille Claudel, sculptress, and Antonin Artaud, poet and actor until late 40’s. « What the heck was he doing here, in the middle of WWII? » asks the shrink and the young student–cinematographer she became again.
Her movie ends with her voice crying : « Enough healing dumb kids! ». Because « a lifetime dedicated to listen to the suffering of other beeings consumes your own energy« . Enough of these kids she was receiving broken. Some of them were closing themselves in dumbness. « Many children use inhibition as a defense mechanism« , she says, a concept so less talked about than the resilience concept made famous by Boris Cyrlunik. They stay dumb to stop the suffering.
The survivors of 14 left so much to their descendants under the form of multiple psychosis, unsolved trauma situations and other ordinary madness, like alcoholism. These trauma can pass to the following generations as traces, via words, behaviors, acts. And we don’t even talk about the epigenetic level. If this thing passed through generations of soldiers and other cannon fodder, it seems the contamination reached the highest levels of society. « Pathologicial liers » says Vacelet-Vuitton as we talk about the happening of the second Iraq War 2003 and the politicians who planned it. There is the old butchery, old fashioned way. « Shock and aw » promised Condoleezza Rice the eve of flowing bombs to iraqi civilians. It was ten years ago. « There are wars everywere, everyday » claims the filmaker. While the world remembers the two more deadful conflicts, war is still raging. Officially, France is currently at war in Africa, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Officially.
Next to come : read our full english interview with Annie-Vacelet Vuitton.
Mémoire de la folie (2000) & 1914, la folie (2002), documentaries by Annie Vacelet-Vuitton.
Next screening : Montreuil, with Musée de l’Histoire vivante, october 2014, Paris, F’rance.
Informations on Annie Vacelet-Vuitton.