Sunday, November 30, 2008

I've Loved You So Long

Despite how that title may sound, this is not another paean to a long-lost ex-boyfriend who broke up with me. As a matter of fact, breakups of the romantic sort don't figure at all into Philippe Claudel's French language film, starring Kristin Scott Thomas, which I saw Saturday night.

It was a fairly quiet film about psychological interiors and difficult relationships, and I enjoyed it very much. I don't recommend reading a lot about it prior to seeing it (and you should), as there are a couple of narrative turns that are best left as surprises. Scott Thomas and Elsa Zylberstein, who plays her sister, are both incredibly good, even while the story might be said to have a somewhat melodramatic dénouement.

At the heart of this film is a very strong theme of redemption and also an examination of the idea that often none of us really knows anything about the experiences of others, whether they are close to us or strangers. Even when we try to sympathize, we may very well not know the whole story about what motivates anyone and what has shaped his or her demeanor or behavior. I find that exploration very intriguing as I work through my own issues of trying to be compassionate, sympathetic, and nonjudgmental. Ironically, I get most irritated and impatient with people when I feel they're unwilling to look deeper into situations and personalities and instead make snap judgments. I find that type of black-and-white thinking incredibly stupid and, well there you go: a lesson for me about working on my own judgments.

One final issue that keeps coming up for me when I see films or read some works of fiction: I have such a problem with "realism" that I'd call it an impediment. I have trouble taking leaps of faith in otherwise "believable" stories unless the conceit is handled in an exaggerated or highly stylized manner as in magic realism, broad satire, or fable. This is a problem for me -- not in detracting from my enjoyment of a story -- but in thinking that I could never release myself enough to write a story if I didn't feel that every narrative choice was inscrutable. I probably should get over that somehow. Just a thought. (And yes, the film does have a bit of that: a central element that I find not wholly believeable, but upon which the entire premise of the story rests.)

In any case, I highly recommend this film; it's exactly embodies the reasons I love going to the movies.


Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

I have heard a lot of buzz about this "little" film and praise of Scott Thomas. Until the past couple of years, I didn't care for her but have come around and highly respect her as a very subtle actress. She seems to be finding strong, quirky and not always completely sympathetic roles similar to Charlotte Rampling as she grows older. Both women are role models for me.

Joe said...

Funny, I've linked Scott Thomas to Charlotte Rampling in my mind, mostly because both of them have appeared in notable French language productions. The only American actress I can think of who's done anything similar is Jodi Foster with her bit part in Un Long Dimanche de Fiançailles.

BigAssBelle said...

as you likely know, films like this just don't make it to the land of the Kerns.