QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM TALLINN
One late evening, Tomas Morel (Gregoire Colin) arrives at home only to find his unconscious wife Claire (Maud Wyler) on the floor, on a pool of blood. Meanwhile, a passerby encounters a baby boy inside a plastic baby sitting on top of the bin just outside the house. He’s still alive. Upon waking up in hospital, the mother of two (now three) has no recollection of what happened. Or at least she claims to have to memory, however the police and the prosecutors beg to differ. And so the Claire sets out to prove her innocence: she argue that never abandon her very own child, her two healthy and happy young daughters being solid evidence of her motherly devotion. Yet she’s unable to explain how the baby ended outside. Someone must have cut her umbilical chord, put the hapless newborn inside a plastic, and placed it outside.
The rest of the film revolves around two questions: did Claire know she was pregnant? And did she intentionally dispose of her child, or is it possible that her state of shock was such that she indeed has no recollection of what happened? The answer to the first question becomes clear after it is established that nobody (not even her husband) noticed her pregnancy (hence the film title). Plus, Claire did not have a protruding belly even two weeks before she carried the pregnancy to full term, as a picture demonstrates. It therefore becomes increasingly acceptable that she did not have a knowledge of her gestation. The answer to the second question is far more complex: it will lead to a public trial and a possible custodial sentence.
At first, Claire is almost entirely silent, but she slowly begins to open up, face her demons and the French judicial system. She is supported by both her spouse and her lawyer friend Sophie. Wyler delivers an auspicious perform blending strength and vulnerability, and kindness and anger, both in equal measures. This a complex role suitable for a fine actress. Perhaps a young Isabelle Huppert would have been just perfect (the French actress, however, is now aged 69).
While worth a view, And Yet We Were Blind is not a perfect film. The various subplot (Claire’s mother who abandoned her aged 12, her grandmother and a mysterious child coffin) don’t always gel together, and ultimately feel banal (instead of raising questions pertinent to the debate around pregnancy denial). Also, the topic probably required a more detailed film, with more extensive courtroom cross-examinations. Perhaps an extra 20 to 30 minutes on top of the final 94. What the film does well is to highlight that a woman can be mercilessly punished for what she cannot control. Claire becomes the big news on newspaper and television long before the trial reaches its conclusion (she’s branded a “Medea”, a “sourceress”, and so on).
Another problem is that the outcome of the courtroom ordeal is presented to audiences in the shape of titles (intertext). This device is very confusing because it suggests that the film is based on a real story. This isn’t the case here. While And Yet We Were All Blind may have been inspired by real women (according to French Association for the Recognition of Pregnancy Denial, there are about 300 cases per year in France), Claire Morel has never existed. It would have been better if either the director illustrated the outcome, or simply left the ending open.
And Yet We Were All Blind has just premiered in the Official Competition of the 26th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.