Film still of the film Chronicle of a Forgotten Death, directed by Pierre Morath, Visions du Réel 2012

Chronicle of a Forgotten Death

Chronique d'une mort oubliée

Pierre Morath
Switzerland | 2012 | 62 min
World premiere
Language : French
Subtitle : English

From January 2003 to May 2005, Michel Christen, aged 53, lay dead on the sofa of his studio flat in Geneva, until the police discovered his vermin-ridden corpse. Investigating the mechanism that led to such neglect, Pierre Morath produces a damning indictment of the management methods which effectively prevent the Swiss social services from caring for society’s weakest members.

For two years a man was slowly decomposing in his apartment in the Geneva neighbourhood of Les Acacias, supposedly a mixed working-class district, without anyone being aware of it. The ex-wife of the deceased Michel Christen is indignant; she rails against an “administrative lie”: “The law says that a person is dead only when their body is discovered. What if someone discovered Napoleon’s body today!” Strangely, the fifty-year-old in question in Chronique d'une mort oubliée knew everyone in the neighbourhood. But he was ill, tired of life. So, when his neighbours or fellow drinkers at the local bar missed him one day, they imagined he was in hospital.  Drawing on a report commissioned by the Government but never made public, Pierre Morath has nevertheless produced a crushing indictment of the inward-looking management practices of the public services supposed to care for the weaker members of society. The fate of Michel Christen is a strange kind of crime, which tells us a great deal about the weakening of social bonds in “civilized” Western societies.

Emmanuel Chicon

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