Cinema: “Plan 75”, mass euthanasia for the elderly

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With “Plan 75”, which has just been released in theaters in France, the Japanese director Chie Hayakawa has created an impressive cinematographic work – overwhelming by its images and the moral disorder conveyed. At the heart of this terrifyingly realistic fiction, set in the near future, is a Japanese government’s vote to allow mass euthanasia for people over the age of 75.

The crucial question of Map 75 It is not the will of a patient suffering from a disease as fatal as it is unbearable who decides to have recourse to euthanasia. The film’s incredible strength lies in making credible the installation by the State of a system of manipulation and social pressure pushing healthy old people en masse into death centers created on purpose to alleviate the financial burden of the State.

This is not a pro-euthanasia movie »

First I want to say that this movie is not a pro-euthanasia movie. », affirms Chie Hayakawa, as if to apologize for the immense impact of his images on the spectators. Map 75 begins with scenes worthy of an impressionist painting, with greenish tones, the appearance of the silhouette of a tree trunk behind stained glass. At the same time, we are witnessing a shock scenario: a young man, gun in hand, coldly executes the residents of a retirement home.

The opening scene of the film is inspired by the Sagamihara massacre, a news item that took place in Japan in 2016. A young man murdered 19 disabled people claiming that they were of no use in society. In addition, he publicly condemned the use of public money to care for these people. ” He did this act in devotion to his country, says Chie Hayakawa. For him, it was a right act. I was very marked by this drama, because it has a really very representative meaning, a tendency towards intolerance which has been growing in recent times with regard to fragile people and the elderly in particular. »

Chie Hayakawa, the Japanese director of “Plan 75”. © Siegfried Forster / RFI

Aging is really an anguish for many Japanese »

Map 75 is located in Japan, a country where the aging of the population is an increasingly dramatic problem. In his film, Hayakawa shows a society adrift which first deconstructs and destroys the values ​​of the old society before taking the next step: eliminating this generation that has become useless and too expensive for a State obsessed with its budget and which grants itself the right to declare a life unworthy of being lived. Michi, a septuagenarian living very modest and alone, represents in the film this generation sacrificed and destined for euthanasia. When she is fired from her job as a housekeeper and her building is condemned to be demolished to make way for a more modern construction, she then undergoes the terrible social pressure exerted by the existence of Plan 75 on her.

In Map 75Chie Hayakawa imagined in the near future a cynical system put in place by the government, an undisguised invitation addressed to people over 75 to end their lives: “ Aging is really an anguish for many Japanese. We wonder how we will do, for example, if we have senile dementia, or what will happen to us if we become physically unable to be independent. We wonder how we will manage to get by financially. All these anxieties make old age really considered scary. And this feeling tends to increase in recent years. For this, if the 75 plan really existed, there would be a certain number of people who would adhere to this proposal. »

Of the “ Gravediggers ” to “ Map 75 »

What are the limits of a society in its relationship with the elderly? The issue of elder abuse has also become a big topic in France. In the spring of 2022, a scandal had moved the country. The investigation book The Gravediggers had denounced a system where hygiene care (“ three layers a day maximum, not one more “), medical care, see meals (“ food was a trickle “) of residents of retirement homes are ” rationed to improve the profitability of Orpea, a group that manages 354 nursing homes in France.

And then there is the great question of euthanasia, which has remained an absolute taboo for a long time since Nazi Germany’s frightening euthanasia program which murdered hundreds of thousands of handicapped and mentally ill people during the Second World War. considered as ” useless and unworthy lives “. Today, the question of euthanasia often arises in relation to “life support” practices which have in the meantime prompted States to legislate in this area. The right to die with dignity is less and less contested in Western societies. France is also thinking about decriminalizing euthanasia.

Chieko Baisho embodies Michi in “Plan 75”, by the Japanese Chie Hayakawa, presented at the Cannes Film Festival.
Chieko Baisho embodies Michi in “Plan 75”, by the Japanese Chie Hayakawa, presented at the Cannes Film Festival. © Cannes Film Festival

The subject of euthanasia in the cinema

In the cinema, this highly sensitive subject has long been tackled by directors. Loveby Michael Haneke, the story of a wife who puts an end to her husband’s agony, was honored with the Palme d’Or in 2012. A few years later, Stay uprightby Alain Guiraudie, also brought the Croisette to the boil, as Everything went well in 2021, where François Ozon showed the determination of an 85-year-old man to end his life in a beautiful clinic in Switzerland. Not forgetting Shohei Imamura’s Palme d’or in 1983, The Ballad of Narayamawhere the Japanese master tackles the ancestral and mythical tradition of Ubasute who plans to bring an elderly relative to a mountain to let him die.

In her feature debut, Japanese director Chie Hayakawa thrives on all of these scenarios, but goes far beyond them. Because the major issue of his film is not at an individual level, but at a societal, even state level. In Map 75Chie Hayakawa demonstrates with ingenuity how a (fictitious!) government uses the sense of sacrifice and the values ​​of the older generations to push them to sign Plan 75, and therefore to agree to be euthanized after receiving a bonus of 100,000 yen allowing you to spend the last few weeks without financial worries.

A country’s hold on people’s dignity »

The important thing for me was to show the danger that a State, a country, could intervene or have the right to watch over the life or death of people. You have to be aware of how dangerous this terrain is and the subject must be treated with great care. It’s true, until now, films that talked about euthanasia tended to make special cases of it. While there, what interested me was this movement of influence that a country can have on the dignity of people. This is the central point of my film. »

Special mention of the Caméra d’or at the last Cannes Film Festival, Map 75 is currently up for the Oscars.

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Cinema: “Plan 75”, mass euthanasia for the elderly