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La Belle Visite

Film demands patience but gives insight into growing old

By Tiina Cote

Directed by Jean-François Caissy

(Les Films de l’Autre) www.labellevisite.comm 

Aging is a complex reality in Canada, one that is rarely absorbed by those who have yet to reach their later years. 

Examining the lives of residents in a retirement home over 12 months, La Belle Visite creates an opportunity for such absorption.

The viewer can expect a trilogy of responses — confusion, frustration and introspection — as director Jean-François Caissy invites us into the pace and activities of the home’s aging residents.

This retirement home, a converted motel in Quebec, is situated between a busy highway on one side and seemingly endless water on the other. The residents are introduced through their routines without voice-over narration. It is a confusing, collage-style introduction that leaves the viewer uncertain about whom and what has significance. 

The film (in French with English subtitles) unfolds with no background music at an excruciatingly slow pace, demanding almost too much from a younger, more agenda-driven viewer. Patience is required to follow behind a woman who gathers up enough energy to slowly walk down a long motel hallway, stopping halfway to rest, and then continues along more of the hallway until finally arriving at the dining room to eat.

Yet, patience begins to bear fruit as the viewer is drawn into introspection through association. The near silence of the film mimics the reality of solitude in the lives of the residents. The disconnectedness of the introduction conveys the disconnectedness of living in a place where trucks roar past, fishing boats sail away and family members are on the other side of technology. The very neutrality of the future is made manifest by the grey thawing water that gives way to the grey sky of late winter, a scene that drains what little energy is left in the viewer.

That’s precisely the point of spending 80 minutes with these aging residents: to almost feel parts of their daily living so that insights can emerge from the experience. La Belle Visite succeeds in stimulating these insights. It is a challenging must-see for those who sense that all is not well in our aging society.

Rev. Tiina Cote is a minister at Rock Chapel United and at St. Paul’s United, both in Dundas, Ont. She is focusing some of her ministry on outreach and advocacy for rural seniors.

Rev. Tiina Cote is a minister at Rock Chapel United and at St. Paul’s United, both in Dundas, Ont. She is focusing some of her ministry on outreach and advocacy for rural seniors.
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