Rust and Bone(Original French Title : De rouille et d’os)
Rust and Bone is gritty film mostly about “them”.I mean that vast swathe of humanity that we co-exist with without taking much notice.They exist to make the world function but their own existence perpetually remains on the fringe of our consciousness, if at all.This film gives us one “distant us” character and one “definitely them” character.The director Jacques Audiard and his co-writers Thomas Bidegain and Craig Davidson take them and changes them till “we” can no longer tell the difference, becoming for some time “somewhat like them”.
We have Ali played by Matthias Schoenaerts, a strapping muscular man and his son Sam.Ali is a drifter,probably with a checkered past, a definite “them”.The mother of Sam, Ali’s companion is not the picture.She used Sam to smuggle drugs.Ali seeks refuge in his sisters house.He has nowhere else to go.He becomes a bouncer at a nightclub where he meets Stephanie, the immensely attractive Marion Cotillard.Ali is straightforward to a fault, he wants to sleep with her and leaves her his number.
We see Stephanie, she is the “distant us”.A smart sexy woman, who is a professional killer whale handler at a theme park.We see her handle the whales and work the crowd, basking in the adulation.Only they are cheering the Whales, not her.A terrible accident occurs and Stephanie loses her legs.The scenes of a Marion Cotillard without her legs are at first chilling and then sexy.This is also one of the major miracles that this film performs.She gets her thighs tattooed with the French words, droite and gauche meaning left and right.Ali treats her much the same way he treats most women he meets, as sex objects first and buddies later, if they so desire.In their first experimental sexual encounter, Stephanie asks him not to kiss her.Ali asks “Breasts ok?”.Thats the kind of man he is .
The relationship between them follows unchartered territory.Both characters are very confused, Stephanie because suddenly she is physically transformed and Ali, because circumstances have reduced his life to a basic existence of satisfying simple bodily needs, food, sleep and regular fornication, and anything that disturbs this rhythm is an alarm for him to retreat into his shell.
The choice of the name Ali is interesting, it recalls another towering ape of a man in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1974 film Ali-Fear Eats the Soul.In that film Ali was a conflicted Arab immigrant in post war Germany who gets drawn into a relationship with an old German woman.There too the relationship starts with sex between two very unlikely people and charts an unpredictable territory.
Jacques Audiard shows immense audacity in bringing Ali and Stephanie together. The physicality of their relationship contrasts Stephanie’s crushing handicap with Ali’s overwhelming physique and their sensibilities which are on somewhat different planes.The film uses very credible plot devices to move the story forward and build an ominous suspense about how things will turn out in the lives of these characters that we deeply start caring about.
This is a film that examines two people from a primarily physical point of view, its interesting because human beings have overwhelmingly started defining themselves in purely mental terms, driven by new forms of work where physical effort has been reduced to maintaining good posture at a desk.It is this physicality or its lack thereof which has created new class divides, white and blue collars, and in the case of call centre workers light blue collars, working on a shop floor, not with tools but with fake American accents and telephones.
Forces of nature which are both within and around us rear their head and force Ali and Stephanie to re-examine and change themselves in fundamental ways.This film is a study of human motivations at a basic level and in the process locates our emotional needs as merely an important piece in our overall composition.The killer whale which attacks Stephanie acted according to its primal impulse, while Stephanie’s taming of the whales is nothing but intellectual arrogance.
This is a multilayered film that asks disturbing questions, the most urgent one being the sustainability of our behavioral and societal frameworks, that are primarily rooted in the very recent reality of a technology driven human race, pursuing perhaps unattainable utopian goals at the cost of disregarding our bodies and abusing the environment.Rust and Bone as a title could not have been more apt or thought-provoking.
Two days back I reviewed Michael Haneke’s Amour , which with great sensitivity showed us the confusion that occurs when our body fails us all of a sudden. Haneke’s work has been preoccupied with punishing us for becoming consumers of violence while lounging in our Lazyboy recliners.I have heard it far too often,”Its all in the mind, dude”, here Audiard probably fed up of hearing the same,twists our arm and asks us to feel real pain.I believe both directors arrive at a complimentary point of view , but from diametrically opposite directions.
#Rust and Bone releases in Singapore on 10th Jan, 2013.
Categories: World Cinema