'The miraculous meeting of two needs, between a look probing the unspeakable and a voice desperately trying to break the silence.' - Le Monde
Equally unsettling and thought-provoking, this documentary on an experimental open prison in Corsica explores the nature of crime and punishment through revealing in-depth interviews with serious sex offenders.
The Casabianda detention facility on the island of Corsica is the only “open” prison in France. Its small number of inmates, mostly sex offenders who committed crimes against family members, work its 1,500 acres of fields and are able to stroll its surrounding shores and forests in a relatively unrestricted manner. Their almost self-governed communal life and diverse forms of pastoral leisure seem strikingly at odds with the gravity of their crimes; at times, life in Casabianda resembles that of a Mediterranean retreat. In any event, it affords the inmates ample opportunity to reflect on the past, present and future of their lives.
The patient, nuanced gaze of Guillaume Massart’s camera is concerned as much with these reflections as with documenting an example of experimental incarceration. Having built trust with the inmates over a period of six years, Massart induces long, in-depth conversations propelled by occasional, disarmingly direct questions, drawing out strikingly candid exchanges. As the inmates excavate their inner turmoil, they begin to grapple with pronounced and implied psychological and criminological insights into the nature of their crimes. Several of the conversations seem like organic, long-form therapy sessions, implicitly different from the inmates’ required therapy program that is ’all defined by somebody’s office schedule’, as one of them notes.
And so, what begins as an observational documentary about open prisons gradually develops into an remarkable quest for humanity. In the Open deftly navigates the moral quagmire to explore the nature of crime and punishment, and reveal profound dilemmas about deterrence, retribution, rehabilitation, and the possibility of second chances.