Some older people fall between "categories" - those who are not well enough to go into residence, but are not ill enough to go into a nursing home. This film follows the slow and painful itinerary of an aged couple with diminishing capacities, both physical and mental, who are facing a complexity of problems by no means unique. Adélard Levasseur ends his days in a hospital for the chronically ill, embittered and despairing at having been removed from his home.
This documentary is assuredly one of the most representative films of Direct Cinema at the NFB, following the cult film Les raquetteurs. Georges Dufaux took full advantage of the opportunity to use this new way of doing things (use of a light camera and the Nagra) in order to say something without reacting or intervening in order to allow for the emergence of all possibilities. Here, the fragility and the vulnerability of an elderly couple is seen, and their story – a true descent into isolation and anguish – is told.
The film was shot over four months, and Dufaux never arrived at the home of this couple – who lived together for 55 years without children – in a time of crisis. The crisis developed gradually in front of him and his small team on the shoot. We watch the couple pass from the hope of living in a residence together to the painful reality of being separated for the lack of finding a suitable place to stay.
Pierre Perrault suggested that this film was one of the most moving and authentic ones he has seen which, coming from him, is saying something. Gilles Carle, during the production of an archive montage to commemorate the NFB's 50th anniversary, presented a clip from the film as “one of the greatest films ever shot within this organization.”
From my end, I re-watched it this week and it really shook me. I was shocked, because the question of the place of our elders in our society is as burning a question as ever. This demonstrates that our healthcare system in Quebec is stagnant.
Christian Mathieu Fournier
After graduating in 1953 from the École nationale de photographie et de cinématographie in Paris, Dufaux worked at a film laboratory in Brazil for three years. He came to Canada in 1956 and joined the NFB as an assistant cameraman. His first assignments included several of the short films produced by the NFB's Unit B for the CBC television series Candid Eye. His major achievement has been as the director of a number of feature-length documentaries that approached social issues by exploring their impact on the people affected. Using a small crew, Dufaux has been able to become intimately involved with the films' subjects, creating the effect of working with them and for them rather than prying into their lives. À votre santé (1974) deals with the relations between doctors, nurses and patients in a Montréal hospital, while Au bout de mon âge (1975) explores the problems of aging through the experiences of one old couple.