Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Secret Life of Words

I’d brought it home from Hollywood Vid last year, but it languished for its week in residence here and then was plopped back in the video drop at the HV, unwatched. I’d pass it on my prowls through the year, but something always said wait. Last weekend Tina watched it with a friend and brought the friend’s copy home; she said she thought it was time.

What a sweetly beautiful, sweetly tragic film this is. I’ve just spent some time surfing a bit about it: it seems to have been given short shrift by quite a few folks, including in some cases folks who liked it. There are voices that speak from the crevices of its characters’ lives, voices that speak through the bodies and spirits of those who are present, or who at least appear to be present: Sarah Polley’s exquisitely portrayed Hanna has a lot of ground to cover: not all of her survived the Balkan Wars. As one who worked for years with people who were navigating their bodies’ and minds’ capacities for remembrance and witness, I found Hanna’s navigations to be remarkably accurate.

It’s a wonderful ensemble, with Polley and Tim Robbins and the few remaining “ghosts” that populate an oil rig out, I assumed, in the North Sea somewhere. Haunting music throughout, right on through the credits. True to its landscape of brokenness, it often feels fractured, unexplained, elusive, untidy: I loved this about it. I felt as if I were watching a cousin to the Irish movie Once.

The Secret Life of Words (directed by Isabel Coixet).

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Blogger jsd said...

The wife and I watched Once last week (based on a write you had done)...I enjoyed the whole movie, the slow pace of it, the home movie camera quality to it, the documentary feel of it, the short premise, and the untidy loose ends. But what I really loved was the chemisrty between the two actors and the music. It looks like I'll be adding another movie to my list.

8:16 AM  
Blogger San said...

Paschal, BJ and I saw this recently too. "...people who were navigating their bodies' and minds' capacities for remembrance and witness..." That made me realize that even the setting, out on the lonely sea, was just perfect for the navigation to ensue.

Beautifully written encapsulation of this gem of a movie. And thank you for reminding me of that music. Your description is right-on. So often, soundtracks get in the way; they overwhelm, their message in BOLD. But this one was exactly as you said, untidy, fractured. Elusive, unexplained. Yes, the beauty.

8:19 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

jsd: I'm glad you all enjoyed Once: it's definitely one of my favorites over the past couple of years (Walden loved it, too.) Interesting how both these films involve Ireland and the Balkans, though there is no overt shadow of war in Once, save the inner wars of the searching souls. In Secret Life the shadows and scars of war are achingly front and center, though oddly (realizing it clearly just as I'm writing it) conveyed entirely through words (unlike the surrealism, say, of Atonement).

10:05 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

San: Thought you all would like this movie. I'll see it again: there was much I realize that I missed, so much of it is almost whispered, as seems right.

Tina liked the movie for lots of reasons, not least of which is that she thinks the older Tim Robbins looks like me, albeit a twice as tall as me me. I always pshaw this notion, but there was one shot of his left profile that floored me: I've seen it before in many photographs. Walden, on the other hand, thinks TR is a combination of TR, me, and Danny Ocean (meaning the Clooney).

Better than being mistaken for Pat Boone, eh?

10:15 AM  
Blogger San said...

Speaking of Danny, last night BJ and I saw 13. Not as good as 11, IMHO, but I was taken with how so many scenes were one abstract painting after another after another. Muy inspirational for this abstract suppressionist.

Speaking of flattering lookalikes, when I was much younger, I used to get "You look like Mary Steenburgen." Saw her in something the other night--she has aged way better than me. Keeps herself in much better shape and quite possibly has a more bitchin' plastic surgeon.

Tim Robbins resemblance. You lucky dawg.

12:02 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

San: I'll have to use your art-axis next time Walden and I do an Ocean's weekend: to my mind, 13 is the weakest of the franchise, though most folks were all googoo over "fixing" 12 (which Walden and I thought was every bit as good as 11; I still crack up over the Julia Roberts - and the Sixth Sense - gag: just the kind of pure smart-aleck smartass stuff you expect from Soderbergh). I wanted so much more from Pacino's character.

I can see the Steenburgen. And by the way: that left profile of TR is not his best. Que lastima. Besides: I think I favor Princess Di much more than I do Mr. Sarandon.

12:17 PM  

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