Depardon doesn’t interrogate those he meets. There’s no sense that he’s looking for answers, that he’s attempting to support a thesis or trying to manufacture a drama. He simply and sensitively asks questions. Sometimes he gets an answer; sometimes, just silence. It’s a high-risk approach that, in lesser hands, might have made for uncomfortable viewing, but Depardon’s palpable sense of respect for his subjects lends the film a geniality that would otherwise have been hard to fabricate.
Depardon is also careful not to romanticise. He focuses as much on the suffering and loneliness this often-isolated occupation can foster as he does on its many, defiantly old-fashioned, joys. The economic, lightly deadpan shooting technique employs picturesque framing of the farmers and their brood and shows that Depardon is out for little more than to capture these folks in their natural state. Adding to the inviting tone is the rich, honeyed timbre of Depardon’s voice, which comes across a little like a Francophone David Attenborough, at once enthusiastic, authoritative, sincere and compassionate. Later on, Depardon fixes his camera on the weatherbeaten face of 88-year-old farmer Marcel. He tells the camera that he has no fear of death, but Depardon knows that his archaic routines and obsolete local dialect (Occitan) will likely die with him. He knows, too, that with cinema, this primitive ‘lost’ culture can be preserved for others to study and enjoy.