Last night, the Cambodian One TV channel transmitted a film in French with English subtitles called “Le Démantèlement” or “The Dismantling”. It kept me spellbound. The film tells the story of an old sheep-farmer, Gaby, who owns a small but beautiful piece of land with a prize herd of sheep in Quebec. He manages on his own with the help of a young local lad and his faithful dog. His wife left him long ago and his two daughters have made careers for themselves in the city far away. They rarely come to see him on the farm.
The older daughter Marie, who is living a comfortable life in the city, comes to ask for a loan of two hundred thousand dollars to help her by her husband’s share of their house as they separate. Gaby decides to sell his farm, flock and house even though he knows that he will never be able to reach the amount that his daughter requests. As he explains to his younger daughter Frederique, it is the nature of fathers to give. His real goal in life has always been the happiness of his daughter, not his farm.
However this simple story contains another more universal story about the flight from stable rural communities to fragile city conglomerates. The film catches the sadness of the simple farmers who see their friend’s life being destroyed by his own kindness to uncaring daughters. They know that the end will come for them soon. It is like watching the end of an era not just the end of one farmer’s working life.
Gaby’s care of the sheep and love of his dog are not demonstrative at all but are all the more real because of his old-fashioned reserve.
This movie is like a parable of a prodigal Father with two uncaring daughters. At least Frederique came to visit at the prompting of Gaby’s friend but Marie does not appear even to receive the money that Gaby has been able to raise for her. He retires to social housing at the edge of the town far from his farm. The world is losing something of inestimable value without realizing it.