by writer/director Alice Winocour
And I Screamed That Women Had To Be Liberated
"And I screamed that women had to be freed."
Facing the camera, these are the words of a real patient who just got out of the hospital.
While reading The Healing Spirit by Stephan Zweig, I discovered Professor Charcot’s work at the Salpetrière hospital. I was immediately fascinated by this city of women, where thousands of half-naked patients were kept under the authority of bourgeois doctors wearing three-piece suits, observed day and night, like animals. A mysterious, sulfurous, closed and violent world.
I remember the emotion that grabbed me while reading a medical statement from May 13, 1885: "Yesterday, Augustine escaped the Salpetrière dressed like a man." I will never forget the image that came into my mind at that time. The one of a young woman regaining her place in the world, raising her head, standing strong and walking proud. It is that very image that drove me to make this film.
What had happened between Charcot and his star patient? How had she found the strength to break free from her 'fascinator'?
I approached hysteria as a form of rebellion. Charcot's patients were women from the lower class, often uneducated, living in appalling conditions, without any rights, and most of them had usually been raped. Hysteria was a response to this violence, a form of rebellion. Voiceless, these women would express their distress and demands with their bodies. If hysteria has evolved with society, this rebellion still seems relevant nowadays. Augustine is a film about the way men used to look at women. I feel that this mix of fear and desire is still in their look. And will always be.