Ordinary Human Language

by Brian Crane

J. A. Martin, Photographe

Set in the late 18th century in Quebec, a wife finds people to care for her children and sets out with her husband as he makes his yearly rounds to take portraits of local people. The wife loves her husband, desires him physically, and feels lost and alone in the daily work of housekeeping and childcare. The film records their rediscovery of their love for each other after fifteen years of marriage.

This film, shot almost exclusively under overcast skies, is quiet and sombre. People rarely speak and most seem to live miserably. But the protagonist insists on forging some kind of happiness with the man she still loves and Monique Mercure finds genuine depth of feeling by inventing a strong personality that plays against crushing external constraints.

The movie ends with the couple glad to be back home and surprised by how beautiful this ordinary place they had grown to resent looks. In the final shot, the two embrace in bed, and immediately the baby begins to cry from another room. They decide to ignore it in order to stay with each other, agreeing that it will fall to sleep soon.

Of note: over the course of a long sequence involving three different locations and at least a day of story time, the film shows miscarriage as it happens. We see it’s onset and development without knowing what it is, and then watch the mother suffer through the fausse couche. The sequence ends with the father taking the handful of remains, which have been wrapped up by his wife in some old cloth, and walking off with a shovel to bury them. Ironically, this miscarriage is the first sign we have confirming that the couple are now having sex.

Posted May 27, 2020