This week, I was reading a book from the '80s and was a bit surprised by a character smoking inside an elevator. There was a time when people used to smoke everywhere, despite others. There was a time when we didn't use seat belts, sunscreen, condoms... At that same strange time, people with Down Syndrome were referred as Mongol and were kept as hidden as possible, with just a few exceptions, as we see in La Huitième Jour (The Eighth Day), by Jaco van Dormael.
I was drawn to this movie specifically because of the Belgium director, the same of the outstanding and incredible and innovative Mr. Nobody and The Brand New Testament (the last one, an incredible analysis of a personalizing God and its implications). I still have to reach Kiss & Cry and Toto le Héros, for I'm trying to see all Dormael features. On this day, I've reached his 1996 movie about what would looks like an impromptu friendship.
The thing is, our times are a mess, it pretty sucks in many aspects. However, there are a lot of improvements, and the way the Down Syndrome,as others disorders, are taken socially is one of them. I was shocked how people would react to George. There's a scene in which que wears shades in a restaurant in other not to be stared at (or to avoid hysterical reactions).
It is in the reaction of people that Dormael is precise and over at the same time. He has an unique view, as always, but it's restricted to a a few moments - the bit about Georges' sexuality is heartfelt and a necessary discussion. It goes beyond all the taboos. The thing about Mongolia is an ironic and valid criticism.The rest of the movie, though, beyond these good insights, is a heavy take on a genetic disability and all the prejudiced and misinformation about it. It is not a matter of false views or something like that - all the things pictured in here is very true and still happens, even if mostly behind closed doors(more dangerous because of that maybe). But his take on this is so heavy, so melodramatic sometimes, that it left me with a really bad taste.
Georges is pure love, and for that the eight day of creation is justified. If only this portrait of people beyond prejudices and labels would be a little less drama queen and more life, it would be a classic out of its own time. The way it is, it is only a reminding of how we can change for better.
|Le Huitieme Jour. Directed and written by Jaco van Dormael. Cast: Daniel|
Auteuill, Pascal Duquenne, Miou-Miou. Belgium/France/UK, 1997, Stereo/Dolby
SR, Color, 118 min.
PS: Just this week I saw this video on Facebook. I thought it was great, specially after Dormael's movie (Can I volunteer for a cat massage??? Please?):