Name: Kasia Balls
Title: The Intouchables
Director: Oliver Nakache
The Intouchables is a film based on a true story. Set in Paris, the film follows the unlikely relationship between two characters, Philippe and Driss. Philippe, a quadriplegic millionaire is interviewing candidates for the position of his carer, with his secretary Magalie. Driss is a recently released offender from a large and complicated family who live in an overcrowded apartment in the ‘Projects’.
Driss cuts the line of candidates and brings a document from the Social Security and asks Phillipe to sign it so he can receive his unemployment benefit. Philippe challenges Driss, offering him a trial period of one month to gain experience helping him. Then Driss can decide whether he would like to stay with him or not. Driss accepts the challenge and moves to the mansion, quickly changing the boring life of Phillipe and his employees.
In the film The Intouchables, the themes show how wealth does not protect you in life and that it is easy to have preconceived ideas about people and to stereotype them.
Although wealth and privilege do not protect you from knocks in life they do, however, give you opportunities like education and culture and to afford care when needed. We see in the film that although it seems like Philippe must live a perfect life, he has actually lived a very damaged one with their multiple miscarriages, his accident, his wife dying of a terminal illness. Driss, on the other hand, says to Phillipe ‘ you may be used to tragedy but I am not’ this is showing that Driss considers, even though he has his difficulties, his life is not as tragic as Phillips.
Also, the director chose to include very stereotyped characters, Phillip a rich white middle-aged man who enjoys fine dining, fast cars, and the opera, Driss a young black male with a criminal history, a lack of education and qualifications, smokes pot and hangs around with gangs and has a dysfunctional family. Although all the differences between these two characters the film portray that people from any background will have their own issues to deal with whether they are rich or poor.
One of the scenes in the film where it was very stereotyped is when Phillip was interviewing people to be his helper, outside of his office was a line of smartly dressed white men with a variety of qualifications. Apparently there wanting to help care for Phillipe, they can’t help revealing their prejudices to Phillip with comments like ‘I like crippled people’, and ‘ these people can’t do anything’, as though he has lost his mental abilities as well as physical, talking about him as if he wasn’t even present. As if he is less of a person because of his accident.
There impatiently waiting in the back was Driss, he barges into the room where Phillip was and says treats Philippe like he would anyone else, without being condescending or showing pity. Later in the film when he is asked why he chose Driss as ‘these street guys have no pity’ Philippe answers ‘That’s what I want, no pity’. Again the reference to ‘street guys’ shows stereotyped ideas because of Driss’ background.
I think that this text has a huge connection to the world, in today’s society stereotyping is a big problem, people comparing themselves to other more and less fortunate thinking that they are too good or not good enough. In today’s society, people are forgetting that everyone should be regarded as equals. Your background shouldn’t affect the way you treat people, neither should it affect how others treat you. It shouldn’t matter what race, what religion, how wealthy or not, how educated or not someone is, everyone should be treated with respect. Having had more opportunities in life doesn’t make someone ‘better’ than their peers, and a lack of opportunity doesn’t mean somebody should be treated with any less respect.
This film embraces the differences between types of people in the world and shows that there are no rules to friendship. The amount of wealth you have doesn’t make you any different to someone not as privileged to you, It teaches us that people are just people and materialistic things shouldn’t change that and that friendships can develop across these imaginary barriers if people respect and value each other. Philippe says ‘I was raised to think we pissed on the world’ as if being born into a wealthy family somehow made him better than others. But Philippe shows he doesn’t want his wealth to define how someone treats him ‘I’m naïve. I hope to charm with more than just my bank account’.
I would like to think that I am an open-minded and fair person, that I wouldn’t risk a potential friendship by prejudging someone, by making decisions about them, based on their appearance or their background. I’m sure I have made that mistake, but as I grow up and mature, I am learning more about the world, it’s different cultures and people. I think understanding people from other cultures and backgrounds is important, because the more understanding there is, the more respect is likely to flourish. I think discrimination is mostly based on ignorance and fear of the unknown. The better we know and understand our neighbors (locally and globally) the less we are likely to find reasons for conflict.
Music is used several times to show the difference in Philippe and Driss’ backgrounds and experiences. To Philippe, Berlioz is a composer but to Driss, it’s the name of a housing complex. At the birthday party, Philippe tries to interest Driss in classical music, and he does recognize some melodies – one as an ad, and another from the answerphone of the Paris Benefit Office.
The film also mocks some of the things that are seen as ‘elite’, such as the opera, where Driss bursts out laughing at a singing tree, or by Driss painting a piece of modern art which Philippe manages to sell for 11’000 Euros.
The humor used throughout the film is mocking and quite dark in places. A lot of the jokes are about Philippe and his disability. But because they come from honesty and not pity, Phillipe can handle it and even enjoy it.
A review of the film by Lisa Nesselson says ‘One might say their status as outsiders brought them together. We’d all like to believe that with a little mutual respect and an open mind it’s possible to bridge the divide of race and class’. I’d like to believe so too.