I only wanted to scout some places along the border. To see and "be there." Call it an on-the-spot survey. We always go to places where things have happened. But this time it's as if nothing had ever happened at all. Or maybe we might have even been in those places during the action, but it had all happened under a thick layer of silence. And so nothing had happened at all.
Every day and every night, the migrants try to get across. And they're regularly stopped, refused, locked up, beaten, kicked out - and they try again and again. But not to fear: they don't exist. We're in the marvelous "permanent vacation resort" of the Riviera. We're immersed in the silence of the border, as if nothing were happening, as if what is going on we're shorn of its "here-and-now" real-time and occupying some other space. Once upon a time - that's how fairytales always begin.
Once upon a time, in this fairytale Riviera, there lived a scientist who explored the deeper causes of death, trying to discern if life itself had considered death in its calculations. Armed with his conclusions, he invented a rejuvenation cure based on the transplantation of monkey testicles into man. This new and groundbreaking treatment made him famous across the entire planet.
And then oblivion. When talking to me about Serge Voronoff, they showed me his old villa looming large over the border, with the now tumbledown cage that he had used to breed and raise the monkeys. And I couldn't help thinking of some fantasy film characters of that period. A Doctor Moreau, or the scientist from the "Invention di Morel," the novel by Adolfo Bioy Casares, who had invented eternal specters.
And so I said to myself, if I have to tell the story of this border's silence, I'll tell it like a fantasy film, set in another epoch, a present-day fairytale.
The story of Voronoff is woven into the history of those years. As a Russian Jew, he had encountered the pogroms. As a refugee, he had reached Paris at the height of the anti-Semitic Affaire Dreyfus. Becoming rich and famous, he hobnobbed with the top celebrities of his day, as well as with French colonial administrators, and Fascist bigwigs. But his fame hadn’t shielded him from the Race Laws of 1938, and he had been forced into a hasty escape from deportation.
The silence of the border, oblivion, the very negation of the present... death, life. To be alive... full of life… what life?
And then there are the frogs that sing. Frogs that are as invisible as they are everywhere. Animals of passage between life and death, water and earth. The frogs sing inside their water cisterns, polyphonic choruses dedicated to the world's fairytale. They were, back in the day and they always will be the mocking witnesses of History. I had recorded their songs rising from those water cisterns dotting the Riviera, and they were the ones who had given me permission to tell this story. And they're still always there, alive and well, as if death were of no concern to them, as if they had trascended it.