Friday, July 6, 2012

No. 4 Secret Life of Words (2005)

 La Vida Secreta de las Palabras

I first watched this film a couple of years ago after reading the IMBD description.  Imbd says that this film is about a hearing impaired woman who gives up her first holiday in years to look after a man who sufferes from severe burns (Tim Robbins). The film is set in Northern Ireland (I think in Newry from the scenery but I could be wrong) and an oil rig, where most of the action takes place. 

I was attracted to the film not by the description of the storyline but because of the director, Isabel Coixet.  Coixet is the Spanish (Catalan) director who has made a number of movies including, My Life Without me (about a 23 year old woman dying of cancer) and Elegy (based on a book by Philip Roth and starring Penelope Cruz). 

I was surprised to find that my synopsis of the movie would have been very different from IMBD.  So here goes:  

The Secret Life of Words revolves around a woman, Hanna, who has been subjected to sexual violence and torture in the Former Yugoslavia and is subsequently rendered mute (literally silenced). Hanna informs the man that she cares for (Tim Robbins) that she cannot speak of her experiences because she may never stop crying.

The film has two strong female characters, with Julie Christie playing the role of Inge Genefke, a doctor and one of the founders of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT). Coixet has stated that ‘I wanted to include her in the film because as long as there are women like her, there is hope that the world can become a better place’. 

Women are thus depicted as both victims and key actors following the conflict.  Coixet made the film after hearing about the mass rape of an estimated 20,000 women.  The central theme of silence throughout the film is a stark reminder of the criticisms voiced by many legal scholars about the treatment of witnesses in international legal proceedings and the historical marginalization of gender crimes. 

Worth watching.

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