Jacques Audiard is such a masterful filmmaker that he could turn even the most questionable material into a staggering work of cinema. After all, Rust And Bone may well have been a disaster in anyone else’s hands. A melodrama about the connection between a dismembered whale trainer, Stephanie, and an abusive prize fighter, Ali, isn’t the most riveting of concepts. However, through the A Prophet director’s vision it becomes one of the year’s finest dramas.
As we witness the relationship between these two characters it’s a film that excellently balances the tender with the tough. Ali and Stephanie endure an extraordinary amount of physical and emotional suffering in Rust And Bone, but being together is what ultimately keeps each other above water . Stéphane Fontaine’s awe-inspiring blend of gritty and gorgeous visuals capture this contrast extraordinarily.
But while their relationship is what drives Rust And Bone it feels wrong to simply pigeonhole it as a ‘romance’. Audiard’s film is much more complex than that. As Ali openly sleeps with other women and Stephanie shows no desire for anything more than physical, their motives and emotions are often murky. But discovering what these characters feel about each (or rather watching themselves discover it) is enthralling.
Rust And Bone may be mature, therefore, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s without feeling. It has an emotional intensity that surges out of the screen with the force of a tidal wave, lingering with you long after the final scene. The unconventional soundtrack choices of Katy Perry, Django Django and Bon Iver unexpectedly complement this to perfection; they’re powerful pop songs for a powerful film.
It’s Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts who really bring Rust And Bone to life though. Their portrayals of Stephanie and Ali’s suffering are mesmerising, especially Cotillard who puts herself in the running for numerous awards nominations come the end of 2012 here. Her physical and emotional commitment to the role is incredible.