The NECS 2023 Conference: Care – University of Oslo – 13.-17. of June 2023 

Panels from the Media and Mental Health workgroup, led by Mireille Berton & Bregt Lameris

Much as literature can “repair the world” (Gefen 2017), audiovisual cultures, practices, and imaginaries have, from the outset, tried repairing our conditions as victims, to fight against illness, to relieve our traumas, to foster our empathic inclination. By taking the opposite side of the discourse that laments the damaging effects of screens (analog and digital) on the psyche, these panels explore, through case studies, the restorative, healing and reconciling effects of audiovisual images in the field of mental health.

While moving images have often caused concern because of their suggestive power, they have also been perceived as a valuable tool for health education, and sometimes even for health itself. This is evidenced by the recommendations of doctors in defense of the motion pictures (Berton 2015, 2016. 2017; Toropova 2022), the construction, within hospital institutions, of spaces dedicated to cinematographic projections seen as a leisure activity supporting the mental balance of the patients (Hennefeld 2022), moving colors used to heal shell shock soldiers, such as Auroratone films (Pernuit 2021), or more recently the creation of multimedia or immersive dispositifs meant to represent mental illness such as Goliath. Playing with reality or have therapeutical effects (Cavaletti & Grossi 2020).

These panels invite us to reflect on the question of “care” understood in the broad sense at two levels: that of practices, discourses and representations regarding the therapeutic or restorative powers of the media; and that of the historical or archaeological approach, which consists of taking care of “fragile” objects such as films, images, sounds, media, audiovisual devices, etc. (Denis & Pontille 2022).


Article by Mary Hallock-Greenwalt published in Motion Picture News (August 1921)

Panel B2, 15th June, 11 am – Caring and Repairing through Audiovisual Images: Films and other Medias for Mental Health – Part I – Film and Video Chair: Mireille Berton (University of Lausanne)

  • Paper 1 –– Beatrice Irwin and the Therapeutic Culture of North American Screen Practices (1910–1940), Pierre-Jacques Pernuit (University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne)
  • Paper 2 — Caring Colours, Bregt Lameris (Open University of the Netherlands)
  • Paper 3 — Videotherapy through self-confrontation. Methods and approaches in the IAAPP (International Working Group for Audiovision in Psychiatry and Psychotherapy) 1977–1999, Renée Winter (Department of Contemporary History at the University of Vienna)
  • Paper 4 — Between self-help and how-to: reproductive (mental) health and prenatal care on film 1920s–1970s, Katrin Pilz (Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Digital History, Vienna)

Panel C2, 15th June, 14 pm – Caring for the Mentally Disordered; Learning Practice and Empathy from Mental Health Nursing Films Chair: Magdalena Zdrodowska (Jagiellonian University, Poland)

  • Paper 1 –– Papering over the cracks in nursing recruitment: a look at how films from the archives toe the line between fantasy and reality in mental healthcare, Angela Saward (Wellcome Collection, London)
  • Paper 2 –– Filming psychiatric nursing in Switzerland in the 1920s. A maieutic between “care” and “cure”, Raphaël Tinguely (University of Lausanne)
  • Paper 3 –– Studying research and teaching films in psychiatry: What practices of care?, Mireille Berton (University of Lausanne)

Panel D2, 16th June, 9 am – Caring and Repairing through Audiovisual Images: Films and other Medias for Mental Health – Part II – Digital Worlds Chair : Bregt Lameris (Open University of the Netherlands)

  • Paper 1 — On the Couch with Arielle and Mowgli. Therapeutic Narratives in Documentaries about Mental Illness, Janin Tschechel (University of Bonn)
  • Paper 2 The mediated practices and narratives of care. Artists and activists with disabilities under quarantine, Magdalena Zdrodowska (Jagiellonian University, Poland)
  • Paper 3 — Taking Care. VR, Immersiveness, Intimacy, Elisabetta Modena
  • Paper 4 –– Take Care of Your Digital Self: On the Usage of Virtual Reality in Contemporary Psychotherapy Practices, Federica Cavaletti & Giancarlo Grossi (University of Milan)

Panel I9, 17th June, 14 pm – Mental Health in Film and Television

  • Paper 1 – Everything Calls for Salvation: Caring for Mental Health among Adolescent through a TV Show, Romana Andó (Sapienza University of Rome) & Leonardo Campagna (Sapienza University of Rome)
  • Paper 2 – Consenting When in a Vulnerable Position: An Ethical Discussion on TV Participation, Kjersti Blehr Lånkan (Oslo Metropolitan University)
  • Paper 3 – Institutional Films From the Waldau’s Psychiatric Film Collections, or the Shift From the “Cure Gaze” to the “Care Gaze”, Elodie Murtas (University of Lausanne)
  • Paper 4 – Cinemas of Insanity: Popular Culture and the Precarization of Care, Simon Schleusener (Freie Universität Berlin)

Call for articles: Cinema, XR Media and Imaginaries of Disability – Imago. Studi di cinema e meda (Nr. 28, 2023)

Ivelise Perniola & Barbara Grespi (ed.)


“In recent years, growing attention has been paid to studies on physical and mental disability, both in the vast field of fictional cinema (cf. Chivers, S., and Markotić, N. eds., 2010, The Problem Body: Projecting Disability on Film. Columbus: Ohio State University Press), documentary (cf. Brylla C. and Huges H., eds., 2017, Documentary and Disability, London, Palgrave McMillan) and new media (Ellis, K. and Goggin, G., eds., 2015, Disability and the Media. London: Palgrave Macmillan).

The field of Disabilities Studies is therefore increasingly vast and complex, as much as to include not only investigations of the theme of disability in films, but also aesthetics capable of deriving a style from this condition, and finally the histories and theories of the connection between cinema and disability (stories of individuals working in the audiovisual sector and stories of cultural operations; theories of perceiving differently and theories of film aimed at differently percipient subjects).

However, especially in the Anglo-Saxon context, the study of niche and experimental productions has so far been privileged, while popular imaginary and genre cinema have received little attention. Moreover, disability has been treated since early cinema  especially in medical documentaries, characterized by attempts to “scientifically” describe cases, or militant documentaries, aimed at drawing the attention of a selected audience to forms of discrimination that are implicit or openly censored in the information channels (documenting for example the conditions of degradation in which people with mental disabilities are kept, or denouncing the actions of ‘annulment’ of disability carried out by the great dictatorships of the twentieth century, primarily Nazism).

The objective of this issue of ‘Imago’ is therefore twofold: firstly, it aims to broaden the analysis of audiovisual production to mainstream products, from national and international television seriality to genre cinema, from immersive media experiences that promise to make us experience disability with various forms of embodiment, to extended reality practice both narrative and rehabilitative. Secondly, the issue intends to redefine the territory of Disabilities Studies by indicating points of contact with different but parallel and often complementary strands, such as Trauma studies (for example with the case of war mutilated, or traumatized soldiers, documented in different forms and narrated in various ways by mainstream cinema). Sometimes these narratives assume disability as a symbolic motif, as in the case of Douglas Sirk’s Magnificent Obsession (1954) or Terence Young’s Wait until Dar (1967), built around characters suffering from mostly symbolic blindness. Of the same kind is Alfred Hitchock’s Rear Window (1954), Born on the Fourth July (1989) by Oliver Stone and Jacques Audiard’s De Rouille et d’Os (2012), just to mention the best-known titles. In other cases, the staging of disability leads to a transformation of the filmic language whose boundaries are experimented with, as in the case of deafness of Todd Haynes’s Wonderstruck (2017) or blindness in Derek Jarman’s Blue by (1993) but also of a 360 degrees film such as Notes on Blindness (VR, ARTE, 2016), which essentially attempts the translation of sight into hearing by working on the environmentalisation of the image.

These lines of research can be developed through various approaches and applied to different objects; the following is a non-exhaustive list open to any integration:

  • The representation of disability in certain periods or geographies of the history of fictional cinema: Hollywood, Italian cinema, genre cinema.
  • Scientific documentaries on the topic of mental and physical disability, from its origins to the present day: archives, funds, case studies.
  • Cinema for the visually impaired: audio-description, expressive and evocative potential, limits, mirages.
  • Cinema without images: poetics of darkness and audiovisual boundaries
  • Cinema aimed at the hearing-impaired: the Pasolinian “written language of reality”, gestural and hypericonic cinema.
  • Disability caused by wars: between Visual, Disabilities and Trauma Studies.
  • Disability as an expressive model for the avant-garde
  • Disability and paradigms of XRmediality: multisensoriality and the decline of the gaze.
  • Disability and forms of care
  • Cinema and epochal, symptomatic, imaginary disabilities: hysteria, autism, sleepwalking.

Procedure for submitting essays: we welcome abstracts (max 2500 characters) in Italian or English, plus 5 essential bibliographical references, 5 key words and a biography (max 5 lines). Proposals should be sent by email to both editors ( and by May 30th. The results of the selection will be communicated by June 15th, and the complete essays (maximum 40,000 characters), written in Italian or English, possibly accompanied by a maximum of 8 images (jpg or png, 300 dpi, possibly already manipulated for publication in black and white), must be sent no later than 15th October 2023 for double blind review.”

Ivelise Perniola & Barbara Grespi (ed.)


Some notes on the “Useful Film in (Neuro)Psychiatry Europe, 1900-1950. Update on Current Research” conference

The main goal of the conference was to assess the research on “useful films” conducted during the first half of the 20th century by neurologists and psychiatrists in Europe for clinical, educational, and archival purposes. The “useful film” has been long neglected by film historians, remaining in the shadow of both commercial cinema and the “auteur film”. Partly escaping commercial theatrical release, useful films know over the years a large variety of formats, forms, and functions, but also a diversity of production, distribution, and reception contexts. Their pragmatic and ephemeral nature requires considering the context in which these films are elaborated, as well as the discourses that surround them and the practices that determine them.

Drawing on the work of Acland and Wasson, the notion of useful film refers to the multiple ways institutions conceive and engage with the tool of cinema. “The concept of useful cinema does not so much name a mode of production, a genre, or an exhibition venue as it identifies a disposition, an outlook, and an approach toward a medium on the part of institutions or institutional agents.” (Acland & Wasson 2011, 4). For our part, we employ this notion in order to designate an approach to cinema oriented by the needs of the actors in the field of neurology and psychiatry.

Kimberley Fleuren

One of the scopes of the conference was to compose, through a number of case studies, a panorama of the practices involved (themselves quite diversified, even though the model of a film as a tool within medical research largely prevails), while bringing forth new approaches or lines of research relevant for this type of audio-visual document. Contributions focused on films made in France (Jean Comandon), Italy (Gaetano Rummo and others), Great Britain (Wellcome collections), Germany (Ludwig Mayer), Belgium (Van Gehuchten and others), the Netherlands (Magnus-Rademaker), Spain (Antonio Subirana), and Switzerland (Walter R. Hess, Ernst Grünthal).

We have chosen to focus on the first part of the 20th century for pragmatical reasons, but also to reexamine the traditional history of neuropsychiatric film, which isolates two key moments in the development of the film practices of neurologists and psychiatrists. The first one amounts to the era of the pioneers around 1900–1910 (Marinescu, Van Gehuchten, Neri, Negro, Magnus, Sainton, Comandon, etc.). Their films are for the most part the result of personal initiatives and emerge outside institutional policies, as is the case with the amateur films made by Ernst Grünthal; other films are made through collaboration between a professional filmmaker and a doctor/institution/firm. The second key moment extends from the inter-war to the post-war years that saw the rise of the “institutional asylum film”, a term introduced by Bonah and Rotzoll (2015). Indeed, in addition to a persistent voluntarist tradition, films are from that moment on actively supported by medical institutions, pharmaceutical companies, and public policies.

Leander Diener

Yet how accurate is such an identification of two golden eras and what happens in between? Can the history of useful film in psychiatry and neurology really be divided into distinct periods and if so, according to what criteria? What forms does the notion of the camera’s alleged objectivity take during this period of fifty years? How do the films testify to this mechanical objectivity bestowed upon the medium of film? Certainly, the recourse to films pushes even further the fantasy of the “blind gaze” to which the scientists of the 19th century aspire – scientists who, as Daston and Galison observe, dream of becoming themselves machines with no will of their own. However, we must not forget that all statements about the objectivity of the cinematographic camera are essentially rhetorical. They serve in part to convince the scientific community of the legitimacy of such practices, since cinema is still associated with the world of entertainment. Therefore, discourses on the objectivity of the film medium have the function of legitimizing and stabilizing knowledge and practices.

Katrin Luchsinger on photography in psychiatric institutions

More importantly, these claims coexist with an acute awareness of the limits of such mechanical objectivity allowed by the film medium. For instance, the psychiatrist Paul Sainton highlights the challenges involved in properly filming subjects affected by movement disorders. It is not easy, he writes, to capture patients with neurological or mental illnesses because it happens that they freeze once they know they are being filmed: “Subjects who, in their hospital setting, had extensive movements, remained motionless when put in front of the camera.” This problem is of course magnified due to the high cost of the film. Neurologists and psychiatrists are fully aware of the epistemological obstacles that prevent them from getting a “good” shot – obstacles such as the whimsical behavior of the patients or the technical, material, and weather hazards. They know well it is a challenge to grasp some pathological movements such as hysteria or epilepsy, or to record eloquent enough movements, worthy of interest because of their emblematic or singular features. In their efforts to ensure the clarity of the images, they are forced to come up with solutions that seem contradictory to the “cognitive absolutism” of the “clinical gaze”. For instance, some doctors choose to dramatize and narrate their patients’ symptoms or to stage their own practice.

What are the main results of the conference?

The approaches presented during the Conference reflect the diversity of the disciplines to which the researchers belong. At the same time, they are telling of the complexity and richness of the films studied. As the first panel, “Filming the Brain”, illustrated (with Kimberley Fleuren, Leander Diener and Raphaël Tinguely), three different approaches stand out: a. a clinical approach, according to which the film is treated as a document informing on certain medical practices and pathologies, thus functioning as an extension of regular clinical observation, intended to capture what escapes the eye; b. a history of medicine and science approach that uses the film as a means of shedding light on a particular aspect of this history; c. a film and media history approach that focuses on the aesthetics and the materiality of films, as well as the context of their application. All three approaches attest to the epistemic value of the neuropsychiatric film, though the actual nature of this knowledge differs according to perspective adopted. As Christian Bonah remarked, “we look at the same images, but we don’t see the same thing” (referring to Ludwik Fleck’s “looking vs seeing model”). Therefore, it is important to openly assume the position from which we interpret these multi-dimensional images (and sounds).

Angela Saward from the Wellcome Collection (London)

As Katrin Pilz reminded us, the question of the “usefulness” can be asked at different levels, depending on the actual users. To whom are these films useful? Firstly, to medical doctors, teachers, staff, students, etc. at the time of the production (we may speak, in this case, of the films’ original usefulness). Then, they were useful to operators, filmmakers, firms, etc. interested in collaborating with doctors. Finally, they are useful today to researchers, archivists, curators, etc. If their original message is quickly outdated (they are ephemeral material), they present an immense historical value, as Angela Saward explained through a specific case study. Katrin Pilz concluded that one must begin by asking why these films were considered useless for so many years, forgotten in attics, remote hospital rooms, bunkers, etc.

The usefulness of these films is a dynamic concept, as David Cantor has noted. Usefulness changes over time (it increases or decreases with time and context); it fluctuates based on the groups that engage with the medium of film; it depends on the applications to which film is submitted, but also on the audiences that watch it. The question of the usefulness of films must be distinguished at all stages of their existence: production-direction, distribution, reception. Depending on the stages of the film’s development, the medical knowledge, the technology used, the content, the contingencies of the filmmaking, the audience responses, etc., the usefulness changes in form and meaning. Utility is a concept under constant construction, the object of negotiation between production, distribution and reception entities.

The roundtable with David Cantor, Katrin Pilz, Angela Saward, Christian Bonah and Caroline Fournier

With regard to the original utility, the paradigm of mechanical objectivity dominates. But mechanical objectivity constitutes only one type of epistemic virtue among several others, as Daston and Galison have shown. For Andreas Killen, the Ludwig Mayer’s films on hypnosis resort to the truth-to-nature paradigm, in that these films aim above all to demonstrate the effectiveness of hypnosis through emblematic images of the hypnotic state.

Nowdays, these films also inform us about the history of recording technologies (35mm, 16mm, 8mm, super 8, 9.5 Pathé Baby, etc.), as the Subirana collection presented by Paula Arantzatzu illustrated. The Subirana films testify to a media convergence practice that is quite extraordinary for the time: the films combine different types of still and moving images, such as real shots, X-rays, EEG, histological sections, and photographs. Moreover, they provide informations on the history of medical imaging, i.e. the usefulness of audiovisual devices expanding the field of scientific knowledge. This is also the case with the Waldau collections analyzed by Raphaël Tinguely, Léa Ritter, and Lucas Iliani. The hybridity of both the collections and the films of which they are composed requires us to trace the wider network in which they are embedded. According to Caroline Fournier, head of the film department of the Cinémathèque suisse, hybridity is what characterizes the production of amateur films—a paradigm that allows to understand the particularity of these film practices.

Léa Ritter and Lucas Iliani from the Cinémathèque suisse

Another question raised by the original usefulness is the content of these images. What exactly is the camera filming? Illnesses; patients, doctors, interactions between patients and medical staff; state of research; brain, mind, body, etc.?

Among those listed elements, the question of the patients has proven to be of a central importance. Who are they, where do they come from, how do they experience medical observation and filming; who are these invisible and unknown people on the screen? It seems quite difficult to trace their history, and when we do have some elements, they only come in fragments. Different sources provide some data: film storage material, administrative records, patient records, written testimonies, drawings, interviews with relatives, etc. But as Maia Woolner showed, this lack of information about patients is also meaningful. It reveals something about the status of patients as objects of experimentation, demonstration, or medical observation – hence, Christian Bonah‘s call to avoid the anonymization of data for legal reasons, as this process contributes to the invisibilization of people who have nevertheless played an essential role in the history of medicine. He also rightly reminded that the question of patients’ consent to be filmed is not just an ethical issue but also a legal one. In any case, solutions need to be found to conceptualize this invisibilization of patients, by drawing, for instance, on the social history of medicine, the spectralities or disabilities studies, which are interested in social groups neglected by canonical history.

The uncanny dimension of patients was also raised. While it strikes as obvious to today’s researchers, it is safe to assume that this must also have been the case, at least to some extent, for the experts watching the films at that time of their production. For example, it is difficult to make sense of images of patients who have completely lost control of their bodies and minds, as David Cantor has noted. And how to deal with the aesthetic dimension of certain shots that reduce patients to elements of the “medical set”? Part of the uncanny comes from their nudity, which emerges as a representational convention since the beginning of neuro-psychiatric cinema. For some speakers, nudity meets a need for visibility of every part of the body and muscles affected by pathological movements. For others, it is a cultural convention that allows nature and culture to be contrasted, with patients embodying the primitive and doctors the civilized. In this latter perspective, it is used to contrast the healthy body (that of the doctor who stands by the patients) and the sick body of the patient, in a comparative gesture typical of medical thought.

But is the nakedness always necessary? In some cases, the nudity does not fail to add something spectacular to the representation. According to Christian Bonah, some of these films appear as “medical exploitation films,” in that they rely on sensationalist effects. For this reason, they lend themselves to all sorts of hijackings, as illustrated by the films of Doyen that circulated on fairgrounds. One solution might be to contextualize these images when shown today, following the model of platforms such as Medfilm or the Wellcome collection.

From Lorenzo Lorusso’s presentation about Gaetanno Rummo

In any case, these films need to be interpreted as a history of specific power relationships, as for instance, the history of Western colonialism, and more generally the history of the stigmatization of the insane based on processes of exclusion and inclusion (in other words, in terms of negotiation, as suggested by Katrin Luchsinger). As Christian Bonah highlighted, one must be careful not to essentialize what one sees, as films always reveal more than the doctors wish to show; indeed, while mechanical objectivity is inherent in the film medium, film is underpinned by ideological, even political, issues, as Paula Arantzatzu showed.

Katrin Luchsinger has raised a yet another essential question on the subject of patients, namely that of the emotions aroused by these images of madness. She reminded how important it is to take time to watch and process these films and photographs. She also drew attention to the aesthetic and spectacular dimensions that escape those who produce the images. These films also respond in a way to existential questions that will be at the core of the avant-gardes, as when they display new images of the body and mind, through new technologies, a theme highly relevant for artists from the beginning of the 20th century.

Psychiatrie Museum Bern

There are still many more questions that need to be answered: Who is filming? Who is behind the camera? Doctors, operators, assistants? How are we filming? Is it just to document experiments that confirm research hypotheses (as for W. R. Hess) or to create a sophisticated discourse to be presented to peers at conferences (as for Subirana)? Who is watching these films? Medical and non-medical audiences (films do not always reach their original audience and may be enjoyed for their spectacular dimension outside the medical realm)? How should the issue of sensitive data be approached ? (We have seen that there are different “schools of thought” depending on the institution).


Charles R. Acland & Haidee Wasson (ed.) (2011), Useful Cinema, Durham-London, Duke University Press.

Maike Rotzoll & Christian Bonah (2015), “Psychopathologie en mouvement. Histoire des films à Strasbourg et à Heidelberg”, in Ch. Bonah, A. Sumpf, Ph. Osten, G. Moser, T. Close-Koenig & J. Danet (eds.), Le Pré-Programme. Film d’enseignement / film utilitaire / film de propagande / film inédit dans les cinéma et archives de l’interrégion du Rhin Supérieur. 1900-1970. Une étude comparée franco-allemande, Heidelberg-Strasbourg, A25 Rhinfilm.


Billet sous licence CC BY SA

La cinématographie scientifique selon Roberto Omegna (1876-1948)

Employé, puis directeur de la société de production turinoise Ambrosio Film, ainsi que responsable, entre 1926 et 1942, de l’Istituto Luce à Rome (section scientifique de l’Unione Cinematografica Educativa), Roberto Omegna est un connu pour être un pionner du cinéma en Italie.

Il s’est rapidement spécialisé dans deux « genres » : le film scientifique et le film de voyage. Psychatrie-neurologie, médecine, botanique, géologie, vie animalière, agriculture, etc., tels sont quelques-uns des domaines qu’il a couverts, toujours en collaboration avec des experts scientifiques (voir Vita delle Farfalle, 1924).

Roberto Omegna a marqué l’histoire du cinéma psychiatrique grâce à sa collaboration avec le neurologue Camillo Negro (1961-1927) dans le cadre du film Neuropatologia (1908-1915), composé d’une série de captations montrant différents troubles du mouvement, dont des symptômes d’obusite (shellshock) chez des soldats de la Première Guerre mondiale.

Neuropatologie (Camillo Negro & Roberto Omegna, 1908-1915). Ici, capture d’écran d’un film tourné en 1915 à l’Hôpital militaire de Turin.

Publié en 1939 dans la revue historique Bianco e Nero (du Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia) fondée deux plus tôt, l’article « Cinematografia scientifica » nous fait découvrir le point de vue de Roberto Omegna sur les applications du cinéma dans le secteur scientifique. Il s’agit pour lui de mettre en évidence les difficultés qu’entraîne la réalisation d’une bonne prise de vue, en particulier quand les phénomènes sont éphémères ou labiles. Mais il brosse également le portrait idéal de celui qui souhaite se lancer dans la cinématographie scientifique, laquelle exige d’être animé « d’une grande volonté, de calme, de patience, d’équilibre et d’objectivité ».

Nous avons le plaisir d’offrir aux lectrices et lecteurs du carnet de recherche un long extrait de cet article traduit en français.

Roberto Omegna (1876-1948)

« Souvent, les personnes qui assistent à la projection d’un de mes films me posent des questions pour savoir comment j’ai réussi à faire tel ou tel plan. Tout aussi souvent, ils sont amenés à élaborer dans leur cerveau des solutions qui sont loin d’être exactes, car elles ne tiennent pas compte de nombreux facteurs et circonstances qui ont un impact négatif sur la réussite de la prise de vue.  

Les difficultés à surmonter lors du tournage de films scientifiques sont nombreuses et tout ne se déroule pas aussi facilement qu’il n’y paraît parfois. Et ce, même lorsque vous disposez de cabinets de préparation et d’investigation parfaitement équipés. Avec tout cela, il ne faut pas perdre courage. Au contraire, pour l’amateur de cette œuvre, les difficultés sont un aiguillon, et l’esprit et l’âme, dans la recherche laborieuse, mais réfléchie, de solutions, trouvent un élément vivifiant qui rend la conquête plus belle.

Roberto Omegna, « Cinematografia scientifica », Bianco e Nero, année III, n° 11, novembre 1939

Malheureusement, surtout lorsqu’on travaille sur des êtres infiniment petits ou sur des êtres microscopiques vivants mais très délicats, les difficultés deviennent de plus en plus sérieuses, car on rencontre des éléments contradictoires. L’un d’entre eux, par exemple, est le fait que, pour obtenir une bonne photographie, il faut une source lumineuse puissante, dont la composition même, surtout dans ses limites extrêmes d’ultraviolets et d’infrarouges, a des causes qui perturbent et souvent détruisent la vitalité cellulaire.

Certains objectent que, avec les émulsions panchromatiques modernes très sensibles et les filtres sélectifs, toutes les difficultés peuvent être facilement surmontées. C’est vrai en théorie, mais dans la pratique, malheureusement, les choses sont tout autres : à chaque instant, peut-on dire, apparaissent des quidams perturbateurs qu’il faut d’abord identifier puis, par des études et des tests, éliminer.

Celui qui s’applique donc à la cinématographie scientifique, même s’il est flanqué et assisté d’illustres scientifiques, doit continuellement étudier et se tenir au courant des inventions scientifiques les plus récentes, surtout dans le domaine de la physico-chimie, car la base de la photographie reste la lumière, les objectifs et les émulsions sensibles. Chaque conquête dans ce domaine peut représenter un réel progrès et nous permettre de surmonter les difficultés qui sont restées insurmontables jusqu’à présent et qui entravent la réalisation du succès.

D’autre part, il ne faut pas croire de manière trop simpliste que pour faire de bons films scientifiques, il suffit d’avoir de bonnes caméras et un bon opérateur guidé par un scientifique, car l’opérateur et le scientifique auront beau se comprendre, ils ne parviendront jamais à créer cette fusion parfaite et intime entre eux, qui est la première, sinon la seule, base du succès. L’idéal serait que l’opérateur soit un scientifique et vice versa. Dans ce cas, on éliminerait le grave inconvénient qui se produit souvent, à savoir celui du scientifique qui, connaissant à fond chaque détail minimal de l’objet à filmer, avec son œil mental trompe presque son œil physique, voyant davantage que ce qui est capté par l’objectif.

Roberto Omegna prépare un documentaire sur la vie de canaries (1938, Isituto Luce)

Ceux qui s’appliquent à la cinématographie scientifique doivent également être animés d’une grande volonté, de calme, de patience, d’équilibre et d’objectivité. La patience et l’équilibre sont les deux éléments les plus importants. En effet, de manière générale, le tournage de films scientifiques nécessite un travail assidu et continu, qui met les nerfs de l’opérateur à rude épreuve. Une fois le travail commencé, il ne peut y avoir de pause, car le phénomène filmé ne connaît pas d’arrêt, et une fois qu’il a commencé, il poursuit sans cesse son cycle d’évolution jusqu’à son parfait achèvement.

Pour cette raison, le temps ne compte plus et, si nécessaire, il faut rester sur la brèche même des jours et des nuits, de manière continue, inflexible, en luttant contre la fatigue et le sommeil. Un équilibre maximal est nécessaire pour éviter de déformer la prise de vue. Le film scientifique, en effet, se présente comme une analyse vraie et propre, dans laquelle il faut procéder avec une objectivité totale, afin de ne pas introduire d’éléments qui puissent déséquilibrer le phénomène, en faussant sa détermination partielle et finale.

Titre du film de Virgilio Tosi consacré à Roberto Omegna : “Un pioniere del cinema scientifico. Roberto Omegna 1876 – 1948 ” (Istituto Luce, 1974). Lien

Il suffit, par exemple, qu’exalté par la beauté du phénomène qui se produit, et poussé, comme cela arrive naturellement, par le désir de le voir s’achever, on intervienne avec un facteur d’accélération (chaleur, humidité, intensité magnétique plus grandes, etc.) pour que le cycle évolutif ne soit plus normal et qu’on doive, une fois le travail terminé, ramener le phénomène à sa normalité.

Mais si cela peut avoir un effet peu dommageable dans le cas d’un film didactique, il en va autrement pour un film de recherche scientifique, car le temps sur lequel se déroule un phénomène est également un élément de la plus haute importance. La cinématographie scientifique est destinée à un grand avenir tant dans le domaine didactique que dans celui de la recherche. »

Source : Roberto Omegna, « Cinematografia scientifica », Bianco e Nero, année III, n° 11, novembre 1939, pp. 58-61

Un parcours en images dans l’hôpital de la Waldau

Les photographies sont tirées du catalogue d’exposition organisée par le Musée suisse de la Psychiatrie de Berne en 2007-2008 : Andreas Altorfer, Werner Jutzeler & Marie-Louise Käsermann, In der Anstalt – Das Leben in der Psychiatrischen Klinik anfangs 20. Jahrhundert. Eine fotografisch Dokumentation aus der Irren-, Heil- und Pflegenanstalt Waldau, Katalog zur Aussstellung im Psychiatrie-Museum Bern, 22 September 2007-23. August 2008, Bern, EditionSolo, 2008.

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