“La Ferme des Bertrand”: farmers and cows in Haute-Savoie facing the camera of Gilles Perret

“La Ferme des Bertrand”: farmers and cows in Haute-Savoie facing the camera of Gilles Perret


Reblochon blues. Here, in La Ferme des Bertrand , a documentary by Gilles Perret, there is no anger, but rather a gentle melancholy. Nothing compares with the discontent currently rising at the gates of cities and the capital, the agricultural world arriving with tractors and slogans to make their demands heard (on remuneration, free trade agreements), making the ministry tremble at the same time. a few months before the European elections.

However, the film tells us something about this work which devours time, and only allows you to earn a living at the cost of permanent adaptation. Very few holidays, no leisure time, so how do you find your way around, or rather how do you not get lost? The committed director, author of My Globalization (2006), Les Jours Heureux (2013), La Sociale (2016), was well placed to film this family of operators, since he has known them since his childhood. Born in 1968, he lived a hundred meters away with his parents, in the Giffre valley, between Geneva and Chamonix.

Gilles Perret was going to visit the three brothers, single, Joseph, Jean and André, who devoted their lives to feeding the animals, taking over from their father, François. They were filmed in 1972, bulging muscles and superb bodies breaking stones with the strength of their arms, as part of a black and white film on the rural world by Marcel Trillat, intended for television.

Twenty-five years later, in 1997, Gilles Perret opened a new chapter, in color ( Three brothers for a life ), by finding the three men with bleached hair, on the verge of handing over to other members of the family, Hélène and Patrick, and later their son Marc, etc. We shouldn’t have missed 2022, the moment when Hélène was going to retire, and that’s it: La Ferme des Bertrand comes full circle in a montage film mixing extracts from the two previous films with a final opus in digital image , a little too smooth not to clash sometimes with the grain of the film.

Living with the times

The film opens with the latest technology acquired on the farm: milking robots have replaced humans and spare them fatigue and joint pain. The milk then goes to make reblochon. To accustom the cows to the noise, we play music for them. “Because cows are shy. And when they are afraid, they don’t give milk.” says Hélène, who spent years trafficking, and believes that you have to move with the times. The feeding of the animals is also automated: they are equipped with magnetic collars, which are detected as soon as one of them enters a specific perimeter. Everyone then receives their dose of cereal…

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