As I sit here listening to Alan Stivell I think about last night and how I went to see the french film La Vie Moderne by Raymond Depardon. It is the third and final part in his Profils Paysans trilogy about the lives of a handful of upland sheep and cow farmers in the Ardèche region of France. Well, it wasn’t really about their lives as a particular year in their lives which are undergoing quite a transition. The old way of life is dwindling with few young people taking up the work of the countryside.
There is little detail as to how the people actually got on with their lives, lived in their taskscape if you will, but it does show that all of them are inextricably tied to the local landscape. The old Privat brothers have an 80 year history which their nephew is following, with an outsider for a wife, but she too is tied by her sense of duty to her husband. The Jean Roys’ are in a similiar situation but their son doesn’t want to work the farm but stays for his family and a sense of honour. There is a young family who have taken a farm over from Madame Bres, then another young family who desperately want to start farming but can’t afford to renovate their barn or buy more goats.
Obviously these people would survive if they left the mountains but their relationship stands in counterpoint toRaymond Depardon’s. The first scene is of the director driving towards the Privat farm and the last the reverse a year later, yet their is no sense of loss on the director’s part. Regret yes, but he will go off and make another film somewhere else probably with other equally ‘local’ people and be happy doing it with no ontological anxiety.
The film is not an ethnography but does give a sense of the change happening in upland rural France which is probably shadowed in other areas too, north Wales for example. I would recommend it but be weary of the rather unsettling music at the opening and end which makes it a classic piece of French cinema!