De rouille et d’os (Rust and Bone) Review:
To say I was moved by this film would be a gross understatement. This is the kind of film where the credits roll and you can feel the energised silence around you in the cinema. De Rouille et d’os, directed by Jaques Audiard, starring Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts, is a tense and unforgiving study of love and loss. Having only briefly glimpsed the trailer before viewing, I was thrown in at the deep end and from gauging others reactions to this piece, the lack of knowledge worked in my favor. With a dramatic abstract start of a young child breathing leading into music by Bon Iver I, as the audience, was instantly gripped by the plight of a young man (Schoenaerts) and his son (Armand Verdure) hitchhiking. The film follows the man, Ali, who is an emotionally crippled street fighter who through working as a bouncer encounters Stephanie, an intelligent, sensual and exciting woman (Cotillard).
Through tragic circumstance both character’s lives begin to intertwine, despite their differences, to create a story of brutal realism, poverty, grit and love. Though advertised as a love story, Rust and Bone, refuses to sugar coat or romantise the unconventional relationship that forms the soul of the film. With uncompromising cinematography by Stéphane Fontaine, the film portrays an unsentimental study of how perceived loss can change us and how willing we are to fight to regain what we once had.
Most prominently this is shown through Stephanie’s battle with becoming a double leg amputee, with her scene waking up in hospital being the most definitive chilling and raw point of the film, right down to the positioning of the camera, outside of the door. Arguably one of Cotillard’s most brave and remarkable performances to date. We look in on her devastating pain, but we, as the audience, are not allowed to be with her in that moment. This happens again in many scenes throughout the film where music roars over the action, displacing our ability to connect with the characters on a more direct level. I feel this is again, Audiard, reminding us that this is not a love story to warm us. For the fight in Stephanie, it takes the whole film, with her character shocking us consistently with her unflinching and unconventional reactions to sex and violence. Possibly the only hitch within the story, for myself, was her seemingly easy recovery into prosthesis.
The second instant of loss within the movie happens to Ali, his brusque demeanor seemingly unchanged throughout the film cracks just like the ice within this scene. Although as an audience you could sense this event happening, his son falling through the ice, it didn’t change the fact we were holding our breath the entire time. It takes this shock of perceived loss for the brute to crack emotionally, what we, as an audience have been begging for. Interestingly so the only thing that stops this event turning into a catastrophic and unforgivable sequence is his primal fighting abilities. Whether this is to show his skills are necessary or that to save his son he must destroy what brings in his income, we never know.
With long close ups on the protagonists we are forced to watch their suffering and turmoil which ultimately leaves the audience with cathartic recognition of the directors themes; love and loss. Although this film shuns sentiment, that is not to say there isn’t beautiful heartfelt moments. One that springs to mind, Ali’s choked phone call to Stephanie after his son’s accident. With subtitles, this adds to the distancing of the audience but does not detract from the action on screen.
The soundtrack fractures between old classics, cheesy love songs, ethereal mood music to current pop. With no determinable sound for the whole piece it mirrors the way you feel walking out of the cinema; with a sense of understanding and closure but still trying to piece together how you feel about what you’ve just seen.