Être et avoir

Nicolas Philibert , France, 2002


Être et Avoir is a documentary which follows the life of a class in a small village school over the course of a school year. During the film’s 1 and half hours we witness the passage of the seasons, the transformations they impose on the land, the changing seasonal attire of the people of the village, the light, and the changes in village life itself.

The winter section starts off with a very impressionistic shot of three farmworkers, trying to steer their cattle across a field. Snow falls in dense clumps, diagonal to the screen, which is thrown in to relief against the green of the grass and the more sombre tones of the trees deeper in the frame. The snow affects the very nature of the image, giving the impression of a white veil between the camera and its subjects. The camera then shows us an empty class room. Through the stillness of the room we hear the snowstorm outside, and then the click-clacking of the class tortoises as they cross the green of the floor. The filmmaker then shows us several meditative shots, accompanied by a lyrical, yet majestic music. We see shots of snow covered fir trees, whose branches dance in the wind against a background of sky. The camera then shows us the world from inside the safety of the school bus, whose windows look out onto the ice filled and snow covered roads outside, whose doors open from time to time to admit children, bundled up in the warmth of their winter clothes, to be shepherded on their way to school. The tight little world of the bus offers shelter against the hostile world of cold and ice outside.