About «La nébuleuse du cœur» / The Heart's Nebula

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Shooting (February 2004)
Jacqueline Veuve, Steff Bossert, Laurent Barbey, Florian Burion


Extracts from the dialogue

« That sudden weakness of my heart, two years ago, brought me closer to death. I realized I was mortal, that my allotted span was shrinking, sadly shrinking away.

Death? Ending as a small pile of dust or as a skeleton? Unable to think, unable to love, to become or not to become a wandering soul. 

What would I do, what would I change during the scant years I still had to live? Love more? Visit Easter Island?

The fact is that I've not changed anything but hearing of physical heart problems does bother me. "He died from a heart failure, an infarct, a heart attack . . . " I now relate to each of other peoples' heart stories. »  Jacqueline Veuve (voice off).

Note of intent (2003)

In 1994, I followed with deep emotion the story of a young American, Nicholas Green. The seven-year-old, on holiday with his parents in Italy, was asleep in the back of the car when he was shot by killers who had mistaken him for their target. At the hospital, the doctors told his parents that he was brain dead. They immediately decided, in full agreement, to donate their child's organs. Six people were saved from imminent death, and a blind man recovered his sight.

Sometime later, I got in touch with his father, Reg Green, asking him to make a film. He said that two had already been made. And added: "When I saw him in his casket, I was sorry they could not also have transplanted his freckles. The patient I feel closest to is the one who has his heart."

Ever since, the idea of doing a film about the heart stuck with me, never left me. Everything I learned about the heart remained and grew in my mind.

In 2001, my own heart that had never troubled me began to race wildly, irregularly or stop outright. I had some bad spells, like little deaths. It seemed the time had come to take up the subject again. A way to exorcize my fear, to understand and explain the heart's magic. 

I began to research at length on the heart in all its states: the physical, romantic, or sacred heart - its history throughout the ages, the inventions that have saved it, the legends, the myths, the poetry that surrounds it. 

From experience, I knew that in order to reach a wide public, the film should not be too clinical. The film must touch people, it must move them. There's plenty to learn without it becoming too didactic. For instance, the history of the heart throughout the ages with its comic or its dramatic anecdotes - after all, one must have a heart to feel joy or pain. It will tell of the lives of four transplant patients chosen among the forty I interviewed. Their suffering, their rebirth and, above all, their love of life. They represent all the others. 

There will also be the discoveries that save lives, the heart seen through the eyes of a child (my own memories), heart dished up as food, etc. I also noticed that five of my films had already spoken of the heart. I have integrated some of their scenes in this film, "Music of the Heart." 

My films usually begin from a strong impression, "a heartfelt moment", a magic moment among chance events. 

For me, the spark lit seven years ago, has turned into a need to work and to share with the spectator. Only then, could I delve deeply into the subject. 

Personal Journey

By Vlado Škafar*

Jacqueline Veuve is above all an observer of others, their work, that is: the work they have chosen, mastered and truly makes them who they are. She observes their skills, their joys and passions. She does not judge, nor provoke, but quietly, simply and empathically portrays. For this reason her portraits are at first glance innocent, undramatic, naïve, free of explicit psychological or social imperatives, yet she does not idealize and lets the potential dark sides and doubts unfold slowly and on their own. In allowing for what is noble in people to come out and in revealing their everyday routine, which most fundamentally defines them, although it is hardly perceived or is taken for granted by others, this fusion of the ordinary and the noble reveals the author’s profound understanding of who and what it means to be human. Her anthropological approach is unobtrusive, without prejudice or explanations, charming in its simplicity just as the cinema of Agnès Varda, in my view, her cinematic twin.

Another thing must be told when it comes to her portraits; although imbued with a certain tranquillity, they are not static, but rather journeys across personal histories, times past and all those things that preserves places, people and their work from generation to generation. We might call them depth portraits or portraits with perspective.

For this year’s Silvan's Cinema School I have chosen two rather untypical films from her extremely comprehensive and rich opus, in which her camera turns on herself or her close ones. The Artist’s Salary and The Heart’s Nebula are two very personal cinematic journeys. Making The Artist’s Salary took her no less then eleven years, during which she recorded the life of her son, a painter, from his first artistic success to a period of crisis which brought doubts about the possibility of creating art and surviving. It shares some points with Mekas’ diary notes, but instead of employing the technique of gathering and composing bits and pieces, with an accompanying commentary, Veuve employs the direct cinema method, a fly-on-the-wall presence in the life of her subject, which she as a mother of course violates and in that we can recognize the emotional instance of Naomi Kawase, whereas with Kossakovsky she shares the act of observing her son’s existence, and self-awareness. But her film differs from these family diaries; the thread of her film is not her son’s life and it’s preservation in the form of diary, but the life of an artist, reflection on his work and struggle echoing her own creative work. This is a personal journey of unceasing examination of the nature, need and notion of creating art. The fact that this is their common question, a shared existential journey of mother and son is best expressed in the scene, where the son turns the camera on his mother.

Two years ago Jacqueline Veuve turned her camera on herself as well, while going through actual heart troubles and waiting for an operation. This resulted in a witty and moving Odyssey across the galaxy of the heart entitled The Heart’s Nebula. Jacqueline becomes the hero of her film and her life, the end of which seems suddenly more tangible. An unexpected weakness of her heart brought her closer to death and she wanted to overcome her fears through film. Yet this is not a display of privacy, but a personal journey in the language of cinema during which the main protagonist is not Jacqueline Veuve – the heart patient, but Jacqueline Veuve – the filmmaker. The Heart’s Nebula is a beautiful example of a personal filmic essay in which the filmmaker’s personal situation launches her on a journey, to explore, discover and understand things that profoundly concern her. Veuve tackles the heart with a broad vision, which encompasses all of its dimensions; and while travelling through its physical, clinical, spiritual, mythical, poetic labyrinths, while discovering the corners of this infinite galaxy, we discover the immense vitality of her wakened heart.

*) from: Catalogue Kino OTOK4, Isola Cinema, Izola 2007, p.20s. (Silvan's Cinema School)

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