Friday, December 16, 2011

Through Un-Arable Soil

A young woman, recently widowed, walks alone in rugged, inhospitable Connemara. She has left the comfort of her apartment. You imagine a smell of garbage about her and her fingernails crusty. Everything she owns is on her back including a blue plastic rolled-up tent in which she camps every night. For the first 15 minutes of this movie there aren’t a dozen words spoken and not too many after that.

She happens upon a house on the tip of a peninsula jutting into a body of water. The owner is Stephen Rea, past middle-age, also mourning his wife’s death. He welcomes her company but neither offers a name or their past, as if they have none and have returned to an elemental existence. When he pushes near she pulls away. When she finally trusts enough to abandon her tent and sit at his table, he becomes more taciturn.

Rea’s face is a biography of his wounded life, cratered but kind. She returns repeatedly to a cliff overlooking this strange phallic-like stretch of earth with the cottage at land’s end. They have both come to the end of their tether in a craggy place strangely embraced by a green belt.

The countryside is as stark and raw as their interior landscape; yet sensually suggestive as the camera closes in on her fingering sinuous, slithering kelp and he pulling onion and chive from his garden. Together they dig and stack peat moss for fuel, transforming the austere and barren into something Edenic.

She peels potatoes and cooks him soup. He offers her his music. Her taste runs to the classical and his to country. He teases that she is too educated to know what’s good. She dances a jig.

The blue of the tent becomes a blue jar on the sill, his blue shirt and the blue light at dusk. Their early insistence of anonymity slowly yields to intimacy, unable to resist forbidden knowledge in spite of themselves and the film’s ironic name, Nothing Personal.

As simple humanity emerges he suffers a heart attack. His heart has been attacked as it opens. She watches over him and when he succumbs she wraps his body in a sheet and embraces him in her nakedness. It is a most memorable movie image, highly erotic and poignant, unlike any I’ve seen before.

There is redemption of life through hard-earned love, the way potatoes grow between ancient stone and bogs, pushing up through un-arable soil.

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