Review: 12 Days (aka 12 jours)


A dozen residents of a French psychiatric hospital have one thing in common. None of them volunteered to be there. They have been adjudicated to be a danger to themselves or others. Therefore, they will stay in the lock-up until the authorities decide they can leave. Beyond that, they have nothing in common. Some want to stay, some want to leave, some act crazy and dangerous, some act eccentric. Some act like the guy next door.

Renowned photographer and documentarian Raymond Depardon’s riveting verite is a selection for the 23rd Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, co-presented by Film Society of Lincoln Center and Unifrance. By French law, persons admitted to a psychiatric hospital against their will must be evaluated by a judge within 12 days and every six months after that. The determination of the magistrate, whether they must stay, or can leave, is final. Although they may appeal, they rarely do.

The population defines the term marginalized. Although half of them could conceivably live in a minimally supportive community, the other half do, indeed, appear likely to hurt themselves or others. A master of the genre, Depardon refuses to take sides, or even to ask questions, and he certainly does not provide answers. That is left entirely to the viewer who not only judges each person (as much as they would deny it) but unavoidably comes away with a startling new perspective about themselves.

At the end of each five-minute interview the reasons for the incarcerations are clear. Even so, it is not obvious that these same persons could not live in the general population. In the past some of these persons, unsupervised, would have ended their lives. Others would have assaulted strangers on the street for no reason, although the damage done by those assaults might have been minor. In one case, a Kalashnikov assault rifle is involved, although it is not clear the person intended to use it or even understood how to use it.

The film probes the very nature of freedom, and the right or the necessity to judge others and deny freedom. Is it worse to warehouse human beings and medicate them until they are little more than shadows, or to bear the consequences of their outrageous behavior? The ostensible motive of protecting them from themselves might be the general population protecting itself against anything different from what it chooses to see.

Liberal “live and let live” sentiments fall short of the mark for people whose love ones have been killed by the mentally disabled, as they do for those who have lost loved ones to suicide, not to mention those who simply are forced to care for persons no one else cares about.

One thing is clear, whether the viewer admits it or not, there is a part of themselves in each person shown in this remarkable movie. We are too close to them for comfort.

Rating: 8/10

. . .

Join us on Facebook at!

1 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. default #

    Actually, that poison turns you violent through design AND through habit. Psychiatric narcotics are loaded with toxic chemicals that suppress the body’s natural response to EVERY feeling, including anger. When the dope wears off, AS ALL DOPE WILL, your body will explode with emotion. That’s what happens whenever you rob a body of what it needs. Rob it of sleep and you get narcolepsy. Rob it of a place to expel waste, and you get incontinence. Rob it of rest, and you collapse. These quacks KNOW they’re disrupting healthy human processes, and they KNOW that disruption is psychiatric torture. It disgusts and infuriates me whenever the media enables their biosiege on Mad people. And we weren’t told WHY this guy felt angry. For all we know, he had GOOD reasons for feeling that way. I know I did. Suppressing ALL anger is what quacks strive for. They’re aware that you’ll reject their #FAKESCIENCE, if you ever assert your RIGHT to feel anger and ACT on it. So, they try manipulate you out of the survival-focused instinct to resist injustices in your life. Not surprisingly, that manufactured passivity always backfires. People’s default mode is peace, but they’ll only exist there, quid pro quo. Oppress them in that default mode, and they’ll retaliate. I mean, what are their other options? More abuse or death? No thanks! Treat a person like an object, and you turn them into a weapon. That’s a law of human nature. Flout it at your own risk.