Mon 6 May 2013
This is the second film that I see directed by Jacques Audiard, a cinema personality who seems to have written many more scripts than movies that he had made. I am yet to see Un prophete which is considered his best, but the previous one which was called ‘De battre mon coeur s’est arrete’ was a fine and sensitive piece of cinema, with Romain Duris, one of my preferred French actors in the principal role. Now comes ‘Rust and Bone’ a striking, cruel, almost naturalist drama, but a sincere and moving film at the same time. Although based on a story that could have easily slid into cheap melodrama it succeeds to create emotion by a direct and minimalistic approach in describing a reality which is not soft with its heroes.
The two heroes of the movies are broken and vulnerable in different ways. Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts) is homeless and just got his 5-years old son on his back, he comes to the South of France to his sister to find a roof and maybe a job to ensure his minimal living. His only credentials are his fighting skills, mostly exercised in the street, but these eventually help him get hired as a security guard in a night club. This is where he meets Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) who is an orca whales trainer in an amusement park. The girl soon will be hurt and lose both legs in a work accident. Broken and lonely she calls the only number she may have had asking Alain for help to overcome the limits of her infirmity. The two come from different worlds, but fate brings them together, a basic solidarity that does not need too many words is at the root of their relation before other feelings develop. He has the physical force to help her overcome her limitations, the bones that wipe aside the rust. She has the soul, the inner force that will help her raise over her infirmity. None of them is a communicator though, and words seldom help in the extreme situations that they face, so the type of relation they develop needs a crisis to test its strength and eventually bring them together.
The film succeeds to avoid melodrama and radiates sincerity due to a large extent to the splendid performances of the the two lead actors. Marion Cotillard lives the transformation from tragedy to recovery, from being broken to being in control. Matthias Schoenaerts plays the type of man unable to express emotions in words, but expressing his feelings and ambitions in deeds, and sometimes in violent acts. The whole film is quite brutal, physical, but this is the whole idea, the contrast between force and mind, the search for the core of the real strength. Eventually it is the inner force of souls that can overcome the rustiness of the bones. Man is flesh and bones, and these may be vulnerable, but where there is friendship and then love, there may be hope. Unfortunately the last ten minutes or so are expedited in a manner that makes the ending look like a Hollywood feel-good product, it’s not that I disliked the happy-end in this case, but for the first time in this movie the outcome relates to things that do not happen on the screen, so the feeling of being slightly fooled cannot be avoided. Yet, for most of the time there is truth and emotion in ‘De rouille et d’os’, which may not be easy to watch because of the cruelty of a few of the sequences, yet it leaves a feeling of goodness in the memory of the spectators.