Last night I watched “Rust and Bone”, directed in 2012 by Jacques Audiard, the story of Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts), security guard, bouncer, wrestler, somewhat disengaged father and brother, and Stephanie (Marion Cotillard), whose work with orcas results in a terrible injury. I’m not going to go into any further detail about the story line in case you haven’t seen the film. I recommend it, though not necessarily for the plot.
Watching this film made me reflect on two related questions: how do films achieve their impact and authenticity? With what aspects of consciousness do we experience them? For me, the answer to the first question lies in the way in which the film sweeps me into its world, and also the extent of its ambiguities. Writing this blog and thinking about responsiveness has made me realise that I am attracted to ambiguity and mystery in the arts. If a film works for me, I don’t need to have everything explained. I can experience it on a number of levels simultaneously: noticing the symbolism and characterisation, analysing the production, feeling a range of emotions. If the mystery and the characters seem authentic enough, I suspend disbelief. If a film fails to suspend my disbelief, I feel cheated, as if it were nothing more than a manipulation.
My immediate responses to “Rust and Bone” took the form of emotions, judgements and appreciations. I disliked Alain: his detachment, the way he treated his child, his inarticulate physicality. I wondered what Stephanie saw in him, and why she accepted her injury with so little questioning and complexity. I felt moved by the child, just an ordinary little boy adjusting to changes in his life circumstances. When his life is threatened towards the end of the film, the floating blurry images with which the film are repeated and come to fruition. No more spoilers! Except to mention some of the moments which have stayed with me: Stephanie and the orca communicating through glass; the sound-track; the voice and persona of Alain’s sister: tall, ungainly, with an unforgettable raucous yet resonant voice; Marion Cotillard’s grace and the way in which her face reflects the light; the wrestling scenes. A small flame of intensity, passion and violence simmers through this film.
My final reflection is another question: Is the world of the film (and the experience of it) different from the world of a novel or poem? Or a piece of art? In some of my future blogs, I intend to explore and compare the responses which different art forms evoke.