Emmanuel Macron’s long-distance marathon at the Agricultural Show consisted essentially, between the usual falsely relaxed photo poses in the midst of muddy animals, to reassure a sector on edge between ecological conversion, agribashing and waves of suicides. The revelations of Mediapart on the remuneration of senior executives of the FNSEA, with the monthly sum of 13,400 euros gross for the director general Clément Faurax, have probably made faces in the many farms which are struggling today to make ends meet. Rodolphe Marconi’s documentary is far from the showcase of the Show, far from the maneuvers of the various unions and lobbies who are busy further promoting agriculture and intensive livestock farming to the detriment of everything else and without too much concern for the impact in particularly on water resources. For four months, this filmmaker, former resident of Villa Medicis, author of fictions (This is my body in 2001 with Louis Garrel) and other docuses (Lagerfeld confidential) installed his camera on a family farm in Auvergne, a dairy farm taken over by one of the three sons, Cyrille, who has been trying to run the store for five years. We can understand by his example the horrible fate that lashes out at the most idealists when they want to do well and that no one helps or thanks them for this effort. This is a new picture of the degradation of the very idea of work even when we have been fed our heads with it through debates, editorials and political TV platforms since it is the least evaluated value, the least held in respect, even if the obsessive mantra which guides the steps of liberalism is that it is necessary to work more and longer.
It’s always good to go down from principles to examples, and this one is rare. Cyrille, 30 years old therefore, works every day, including Sundays and holidays, from 6 am to midnight and sometimes beyond, without managing to pay himself a salary. He lives with his father, he had to build a building to standards for his operation and went into debt to the tune of 200,000 euros. He had thirty cows, but eight died from illness. With global warming helping, the region suffered two drought summers and the meadows gave less grass, therefore less hay, therefore less food for its good animals, therefore less milk. To compensate, you have to buy food and try to produce more because at too low a level of liters of milk, the cooperative no longer moves. Cyrille can no longer sell his milk, he can transform it into artisanal butter which he sells for 3 euros a plate on the village market. The more he works, the more he ruins himself. The debt spiral always takes it lower in the appreciation of an existence that counts for nothing: “I’m alone working like an idiot.” In France, statistically, a farm is only viable with an average of 60 cows per farmer.
We gradually understand that the film is also the chronicle of mourning and unexpressed depression. The loss of his mother leaves Cyril distraught, without advice, without support, facing the silent father and who only speaks to him in reproach. It turns out that Cyrille is gay elsewhere and in a remote corner where Tinder does not have the shadow of a guy to offer him tens of kilometers from his home. We see concretely the impasse in which he finds himself and which pushes him to inexorably join the battalion of rural people who must reconvert into other professional sectors, accentuating the desherence of certain regions and a degraded relationship to a landscape including this distant cousin cowboy boys intended to maintain the poetic heritage, crossed at the best days by the light of Corot’s canvases.
Cyrille, farmer, 30 years old, 20 cows, milk, butter, debts of Rodolphe Marconi (1 h 25).