RUST AND BONE
Jacques Audiard, 2002
Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) and Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard) save each other.
Ali leaves Belgium with his son Sam (Armand Verdure) for France where he stays at his sister’s Anna (Corinne Masiero) and works as a security guard in a nightclub. That’s where he meets Stéphanie, a diver in a marine park who loses her legs in a dramatic accident.
Ali is the only one who still considers her as a human being. He takes her out to the sea where she can swim and feel alive again.
It feels good… Thank you.
They start a relationship. She follows him during his street fights. Until he gets kicked out by his sister and leaves everyone without notice, including his son. He moves to the north where he trains as a boxer. Sam comes visit his father in the winter. One day, Ali doesn’t pay attention and Sam drowns in a frozen lake. Ali breaks his fists on the ice to save his kid. At the hospital, he begs Stéphanie.
For three hours… he was in a coma. For three hours, he was dead. I was scared of losing him. Don’t leave me!
She is not hanging up on him. He keeps on fighting supported by Stéphanie. Her legs will always be itchy. His fists will hurt him for ever.
Break a bone in your hand and you’ll see it never heals. You’ll remember it at each fight, with every punch.
Rust and Bone is about life that tastes like a punch in the face.
Stéphanie is kind of superficial. She is unhappy in her couple. She goes to nightclubs just to flirt because she needs to feel desired. She appreciates when people look at her. She likes to seduce. For her, life should follow a perfect choreography. Losing her legs is terrible for her because it disrupts life as she structured it. She loses more than her legs, she loses her beauty which was pretty much all she had as an identity. She is amputated therefore reduced. She becomes a monster. She feels unattractive. She refuses to go out anymore.
Meeting with Ali will be her chance. He’s a hitch hiker who goes where the trucks drop him. He doesn’t care for conventions or the aesthetic. He certainly doesn’t value people this way. He is a security guard so he is a protector. He is wild but also very gentle. Being a fighter makes him a survivor who knows how to take the hits. And he is very direct.
Do you want to fuck?
You want to know if it still works? So, let’s fuck!
Just like that?
Life with him sounds simple. He’s precisely the kind of knight Stéphanie the princess deserved. She needs him to let the light back in. She needs him to become a siren again.
Aren’t you afraid?
Afraid of what?
Ali provides the energy Stéphanie has lost so she can feel human and alive again. He’s the fuel. On the other hand, Stéphanie will tame the beast. That’s her job. She doesn’t like that he has no manner like flirting with another woman in front of her in a nightclub. She sets the rules. She makes him more sociable. She also invites him to question things a little.
If not for the money then why do you fight for?
I’ve never said it wasn’t for the money.
Then why is it for?
Fuck off! I don’t know, I fight for fun. Just like you with the fish. It was for fun.
Did you see how it ended?
When everything goes well, life reminds us nothing is permanent. It’s a constant battle. Life hits us in the face just so we can have a bitter taste in the mouth. So we never forget we’re not bigger than life. Ali will always remember the day Sam almost died. He feels it in his hands. He knows he had to change. He understands he needed Stéphanie and now he can voice it. Ali is different from Stéphanie. He’s the one who will help her out to see herself differently.
Ali and Stéphanie serve as a crutch for each other. It will not bring their legs or hands back. But they can keep on fighting. It’s a different kind of love. They are not trying to reach the top. They are simply trying not to fall. Together the taste in their mouth is bitter sweet. It’s more bearable.
Could a man love a woman the same way before and after she has lost her legs? Is it possible to appreciate life after it broke us? Can we fight alone?
This publication reflects the views only of the author.