Jean Gabin plays Dr Laurent, a Parisian doctor who comes to work in rural village of St Martin. Soon after he arrived, he witnessed Dr Bastid, whom he replaces, helping Mrs Loubet to give birth. The process is long and painful, even Mrs Loubet wants her husband not to go near her while she is in this degrading situation. Dr Laurent has learned that in Paris several women give birth without pain and he wants the women in St Martin to know this new method, which is to know the body better, how it works, and learn to control the breath. Those who stick to the old way are against him, believing that the new method is against the nature. They even accuse him of stunt publicity, which is against the professional code of ethics. Only Francine, who is pregnant without a husband, agrees to try the new method. After several months, when the women see how Francine goes with her pregnancy, they begin to have a new hope. "Your idea is like a loaf in the river. It attracts all the fish, even those who pretend not to be hungry."- says Dr's Laurent's housekeeper to him.
I really like the dialogues among the debating villagers, some support Dr Laurent, some are against him. "You're used to it (the pain), but my wife is not." - says a husband to a doctor who has helped his wife giving birth. One husband even screams after having burned his hand on a hot pan. [If a hot pan is really that painful, how about giving birth? "All in the name of pain." - he says.]
"We cannot love our children unless we'd suffered for them." "Then I guess yours didn't suffer so much."
"My husband thinks it's disrespectful to her mother and aunts who'd suffered." "I'd be happy to go (to subscribe to Dr Laurent's class) to annoy my mother-in-law."
It turns out in the end that they are against him because they don't believe in the new method. After they saw how Francine delivered her baby, their eyes are open then. The labor scene is very good, considering this was made in 1957. I was impressed with the labor scene in Jude (the one with Kate Winslet) and yet The Case of Dr Laurent was made 40 years earlier.
Jean Gabin's Dr Laurent is patient and kind. I love how he tends his patients, how he talks to them, how he cares for them. Instead of sending the school director, who has stomach ulcer problem straight to the operating table, like his colleagues do, he tells him to change his diet. I would like to have a doctor like him in my village.
In the 80's I often saw movies on TV where white women gave birth in pain and they screamed hysterically. That was scary for a child like me. Once I asked my mom if she was like that when she was delivering me and my mom said no. I concluded then that only the white screamed during labor, not us Asians.