France, Les Films de l'Astrophore, ARTE France, 2007, DCP, 32 minutes
Scriptwriter, director, cameraman, and sound director: Alain Cavalier
Editors: Alain Cavalier, Françoise Widhoff
In toilets, the most intimate and important processes in a person's life take place, which are characterized by four substances: semen, blood, urine, and feces. From biology we know that each of them is based on the fifth one, water. As we know, it also serves as a source of life. It is not surprising that a toilet is often denoted by the phrase “water closet”, that is, literally, "a closet with water" (in Indian toilets, for example, you would rarely find paper, but water will certainly be present). Where else, if not in these places, should one ask ontological questions? Alain Cavalier shares with us the thoughts that over the years have been "inspired" in him by toilets, the sanctuaries of his childhood. These closed rooms served as a place of his solitude and self-affirmation. Choosing such a “low” topic, he brings the level of intimacy of his diary to the limit, thereby offering to take a fresh look at our everyday life, which looks much less trivial than it might seem.
In one of his interviews, Cavalier recalls old toilets with a water tank located on top, from which a pipe went down to the toilet bowl. This construction reminds him of the insides of the human body, and in this comparison, one can trace the director’s connection with the tradition of French transgressive literature. Its authors sought to challenge long-held moral and artistic boundaries, using shock experimental forms, and addressing provocative themes often connected to physicality. Characteristically, in the middle of the film, the director recalls the surrealist writer Michel Leiris, an associate of Georges Bataille, who describes a suicide attempt in the toilet. Still, the main thing for Cavalier is a conversation about the transience of time. In “Holy Places”, referring to his feelings after the death of his 102-year-old mother, he discusses his own life path. His film becomes a performative gesture of saying goodbye to the past, which is symbolized by the toilet, a site of constant renewal.
The most intimate diary film by Alain Cavalier, in which the impressions made by private and public toilets become an occasion for reflection on the fundamental questions of life. While admiring toilet paper or a toilet cistern, the director reveals the poetry of these small rooms.