I watched The Secret Life of Words on dvd last night. I’m still stunned by it–a quiet story, with more left unsaid than said, yet it speaks volumes about trauma and recovery, life and death, war and torture.
Admittedly that description is not a beckoning one, but wait, it gets better: a hearing-impaired Balkan War survivor, on a mandated holiday from her factory job, ends up taking care of a temporarily-blinded burn victim on a broken down oil rig off the coast of Ireland. If it sounds bleak, all I can say is that it’s not. It is very stripped down, a slight, very quiet movie, without much dramatic artifice. It doesn’t try to be weighty or melodramatic.
All that said, it is easily one of the most profound films I’ve ever seen. One scene in particular, the heart of the movie, mentioned in almost all reviews, is so beautifully acted by Sarah Polley and Tim Robbins, is so immediate, that it makes an indelible impression. We all talk so much and so passionately about war and torture and policy and politics and treaties– the view from 20,000 feet up–that it almost feels unnatural to simply sit and witness some time pass in the life of a survivor, years down the road after the horror. But what we witness brings it back home, back down to human flesh and hands and eyes.
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