Subject to the Subjunctive 1: Rust and Bone

There’s plenty of drama to focus on in Rust and Bone, with Marion Cotillard as an animal trainer who has lost both legs to a killer whale and her heart to Matthias Schoenaerts, who plays a street fighter and haphazard father to a young son.

You don’t have to speak French to see that our man is in trouble in the snippet above. Slumped in a chair, his eyes darting left and right as Cotillard slams him for going off with another girl in front of her very eyes, he’s guilty and he knows it.

Ça te semble bien qu’on ait cette conversation? Que je te demande comment c’était avec la fille d’hier et que tu me répondes que c’était normal?

Tu veux que je dis quoi là?

Cotillard’s use of the subjunctive in this scene and Schoenaerts’ dis, instead of dise, is affecting. He has behaved like an animal, Cotillard is right, and it will be up to her to train him in much more than grammar. Several sentences later, after a long look at the water, she lays down the law with quiet strength.

Si tu veux qu’on continue il faut faire les choses bien. Il faut qu’on ait des manières.

If they’re going to be together, they’ll have to treat each other with delicacy. He nods in silent acquiescence, as cowed, perhaps, by the power of language as he is by his own misbehavior.


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