AVLE on Wounding

A Very Long Engagement, especially with two Oscar nominations, will be a classic film on woundedness. Wounds, I believe, are brought about by two points from the opposite ends of a relation continuum: encounter and separation.

The story began in 1917 with five WWI soldiers deliberately wounding themselves--their hands--so that they'd be relieved from battle. Unfortunately, they were sent to court martial and were sentenced to death due to this self-inflicted mutilation. One of them was Manech, Mathilde's (Audrey Tautou) fiance.

Mathilde, who had been suffering from polio since she was young, looked for signs everywhere, in everything she did, that Manech was alive. (We all saw them--"If I count seven before..."; "If I peel this without breaking..."; etc.--in the film's trailer, but each of them came at different points in the film.)

"Does it hurt when you walk?" asked Manech the first time he saw her, she was nine then and he was a year older. Mathilde never replied, she believed she had courage, and courage she thought was always stronger in silence. This courage she would need a decade later when she would walk and travel miles to follow the trail of Manech's supposed death. Her distance from the hope that Manech was still alive was bridged by crossed railroads, made phonecalls, and delivered letters. The promise of his return was more insistent than all the evidence that would tell her otherwise.

Does hope water pain? What is pain's relation to being wounded? Is one the cause of the other? The war that determined their lives, was it the cause of their being wounded, or was it the effect of a collective woundedness that needed to manifest itself? Casualties of war are all wounded heroes, but couldn't it be that they were all already wounded to begin with?

In the end, Manech's survival mattered because all of Mathilde's hope hinged on that possibility. But did Manech actually survive the war? That's one spoiler question I'll not answer. I can't. What does it really mean to "survive" something (to reduce a war to something is already a failure)?

Just watch the film, and you'll love it the second time you hear, "Does it hurt when you walk?" (Haha, now that spoils it.)