Dir. Martine Deyres - 77min - 2019 - France, Switzerland, Belgium
During the Second World War, 45,000 psychiatric patients perished in French hospitals. Only one facility survived intact: an asylum in Saint-Alban an isolated rural village in central
At Saint-Alban, doctors, patients, nuns, and nurses worked side by side, for the survival of all. With active resistance in the background, the doctors led a whole community in elaborating a new conception of psychiatry and the madman’s role in society. The fight against the Nazi oppressor changed into a fight against all forms of oppression and confinement. Saint-Alban became the crucible of the “institutional psychotherapy” movement that revolutionized postwar psychiatric care.
Made up of film and sound archives and photographs discovered at the hospital, the film immerses us in the intensity of a reinvented institutional routine, over the course of several decades. Political courage and poetic audacity changed perceptions of madness. Reviving the memory of Saint-Alban goes beyond psychiatry to reflect our own ability to invent and accommodate.