I think this is a good time to talk about Rust and Bone, directed by Jaques Audiard. I saw this movie last weekend and it has stayed with me in fragments, in images, and feeling, ever since.
Why do two characters need each other? How do they need each other? These are questions that any great love story should answer. There was a powerful codependence that underscored the narrative: how does one regain touch, a sense of completeness, when the physical body is severely altered? How is physical strength and power elevated by emotional purpose; by being present with another person? Can one exist without the other?
Main character Ali (played by Matthias Schoenaerts), meets Stephanie (Marion Cotillard), a killer whale trainer, after a scuffle in a nightclub where both sustain physical injuries. Later, Stephanie wakes to discover the loss of her limbs after a freak accident at the marine park where she was employed.
Through the film, water becomes a freeing agent, a body of acceptance that brings no judgement. When Ali visits Stephanie shortly after her accident, he takes her to the beach to go swimming. Ali doesn’t assume she can’t swim anymore. He doesn’t deny her strength, he lets her go. He entrusts her with this physicality, as the water does. He takes on the presence of the water.
But Ali is full of carnal rage, an aspiring mixed martial artist with a need to exert and bruise things. He coins himself “Operational” when it comes to casual sex and his ambivalence is funny, but wearing, and eventually complicated when the need- the purpose for physicality, starts to develop.
Audiard populates his frames with bodies, the back of heads- Ali and his young son as they watch a MMA fight together on his computer. There’s slopes of ears and sunlight accenting Stephanie’s severed limbs. There’s Ali’s son touching Stephanie’s artificial legs. There’s love scenes where her legs are exposed, and the passion is felt.
In one scene, Ali rolls around on the ground facing defeat in one of his bouts, but when Stephanie walks into his view, revealed by her artificial limbs, he is up and filled with something. He takes back the fight, and wins.
But, how many bouts do we get until we have to fight for something more, until past brutalities that we’ve perpetuated, catch up with us? In one of the most harrowing scenes, Ali faces the fight of his life but it has nothing to do with mixed martial arts.
I think it is a good time to talk about Rust and Bone. Of ways to regain touch, and purpose when there’s so many reasons to give up. Blessed by natural, felt performances that bring us into our own bodies, the film makes us aware of the need to feel, and live, when it seems everything around us has shattered, or has gone. We need each other, and that may be enough.