Tag Archives: Sandrine Bonnaire

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.’

À Nos Amours (1983)

The 2011 French Film Festival had its final run last week at the UP Film Institute. Free screenings! Of course I was there: Thursday afternoon, with Sarah; Saturday, with Danica. Featured actress Sandrine Bonnaire stars in both films I watched, À Nos Amours and Vagabond. This year’s festival devoted a significant portion of its line-up to her. It’s a shame I wasn’t able to watch more.

True to its title, this movie revolves around the many loves of Suzanne (Sandrine Bonnaire), a young girl both attractive and adventurous. Her story begins at a summer camp, where she loses her virginity to an American soldier at the age of fifteen. After her boyfriend Luc breaks up with her, she plunges headlong into a series of flings and sexual adventures, to her mother’s horror and her brother’s violent disapproval. Casual relationships characterize the next years of Suzanne’s life, which she spends in a careless pursuit of happiness amidst family troubles and the unexpected return of old lovers.

On the surface, it seems Suzanne’s frustrations emanate from a fixation on love, or at least affection. Acknowledging that she did love Luc, she wonders if it only happens once in a lifetime. What if she never falls in love again? But when Luc approaches her after their breakup (twice, in fact), she rejects him in the most painful of ways. “I don’t want to always hurt people,” she says, but in the end it is what she does. Violence figures prominently in this film, and not only in the physical sense. Relationships offer a lot of room for violence, and sometimes it is these accidental pains we inflict on each other that resist healing the most.

Of course all this is mere speculation. At least on screen, Suzanne’s life rolls on an unspecified timeline. Scenes change abruptly, leaving it up to the viewer to piece together haphazard clues. Most of the time we see Suzanne bored, dabbling in boarding school and marriage as if only to rid herself of ennui. Likewise, the film itself doesn’t lead anywhere. The ending, especially, leaves you with a vague feeling of discontent. Intentional? I like to think so. Perhaps the point is exactly that, how rarely any of us find satisfaction, how—inevitably, after a brush with love—human lives branch off in separate directions, forever in search of the next possible happiness.

‘Don’t you think one can die of love?’

‘There’ll always be sadness.’