Life After A Bicycle Accident

Two screen video installation, 2017, 31 min.

Production, directing, photography, editing: Jaap de Ruig

Music: Diederick Abbink

Translation: Peter Hanson

A just married Dutch piano player falls off his bicycle during a ride through France. He becomes paralysed. An intimate portrait of the consequences. And a conclusion: such an accident appears to make no difference for your level of happiness.

Hands play a piano. The main character comes into the picture. He says: 'There is the story that you don't want it to have happened'. While his voice further explains what did happen to him, we see two images side by side. The man wakes up on a mattress on the floor, he puts clothes on at his crippled body, he climbs into a wheelchair, washes his long blond hair and makes breakfast. Meanwhile, he is occasionally seen in the complementary image. He tells of Lucie, a French speaking Canadian girl with whom he shortly before the accident had married. The night before his fall, they had spent very romantic in an abandoned orchard, where she had stated that this was the best time of her life. He then talks about the divorce thereafter. And about the treatment by outsiders. He gives examples. His piano playing comes in violently, and when the anger has cooled and the sound died away, he confesses: "I did it myself too." He behaved in the same way toward people with other disabilities. He talks energetically and with self-reflection. Close to the end of the film he talks about a scientific study. It proved that the level of happiness of someone who has had such an accident will, after a couple of years, be exactly the same as before. For the spectator it's obvious that he himself is a striking example of this.

Statement of the Director
I knew the protagonist already when he still could walk. He had the same desire for independence as he has now being a paraplegic. He was always a survivor. His mentality has not changed. He lives completely on his own and has no assistance. In the film he talks about soldiers returning paralysed from Iraq. Instead of being honored as 'Rescuers of the World' they are suddenly treated as 'needy'. They are not helpless at all, but that's the way they are treated. It makes them furious. He recognizes it.

Because I know him for so long, he allowed me to film him at intimate moments. Over the past few years I regularly visited him and slept at his place. It gave me the possibility to film him in night-shot, when he got up in the morning. For him it was a challenge, because the first thing you learn as handicapped person, is that disability is scary for other people. So you'd better not talk about it, and certainly not show it. After he had seen the last scene of the film, where he tells about asking a nurse: What about doing "it"?, he demanded me to cut this part out. Disabled people should not talk about sex, he said, because non-disabled people find that disgusting. Fortunately I could make it clear to him that this is taboo-breaking in a positive way, and that it had to stay in.

I chose to edit the movie in a two screen editing. So I got the opportunity to let the protagonist tell something while on the adjacent image he is taking care of his daily pursuits. These pursuits are time-consuming and he does them, contrary to what his rough appearance might suggest, extremely meticulous. Sometimes the two images show one and the same act, but from a different perspective.


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