Vagabond (1985)

Clearly, I hadn’t had enough. After À Nos Amours, I just had to watch another French film. This time, I dragged Danica with me. Vagabond wasn’t at the top of my list, actually. I didn’t research the titles listed on the festival calendar, but I wanted to see Her Name is Sabine just because it sounded intriguing. Vagabond fit our schedules better though, so after a hearty lunch Danica and I headed over to the UP Film Institute. (I am obviously starting to feel at home there. Right now I’m waiting for the UP leg of Eiga Sai 2011, the Japanese Film Festival.)

The movie opens with Mona Bergeron (Sandrine Bonnaire) lying dead in a wine ditch. Documentary-style, the film recounts the last period of her life from the perspectives of various people she encountered in her wanderings, among them a goat farmer, a tree-researching professor, and a maid. Their testimonies cull together a vague image of Mona from the brief instances she shared with them, even as they remain unaware of her death.

Until the end, Mona’s past remains unclear. She used to work as a secretary in Paris, but she gave it up to escape the constraints of normal life. When the tree researcher asks her why she did it, she answers, “Champagne on the road’s better.” The goat farmer has a different opinion. “That’s not wandering,” he says. “That’s withering.” Mona’s standpoint proves difficult to pin down. She seems to exhibit a fatalistic attitude towards life. It is never explicitly stated, but perhaps she acts the way she does because she sees the pointlessness of life, in a manner easily mistaken for laziness. From the outside, it certainly looks that way.

In her wanderings Mona meets many people, mostly other travelers, but she never lingers long enough to form a lasting bond with them. Always, she journeys alone. The film makes repeated references to how each person has his own road to travel. Companions come and go, but what separates us stays longer than anything else. In the end, solitude remains. And what we leave behind amounts to nothing more than a few wisps of memory. We are reduced to fragments, are easily dispersed by a gust of wind. Time passes, and the world moves on.

‘I know little about her myself, but it seems to me that she came from the sea.’

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