Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Les Roseaux Sauvages (Wild Reeds)

"Wild Reeds (1994)" is a French coming of age film by director André Téchiné.  It centers around the sexual awakening of four high school students with the backdrop of the ongoing French-Algerian war.  The moody, sulking Henri Mariana is French Algerian and after witnessing his father's death has become withdrawn and unmotivated to graduate.  The main protagonist, Francois, discovers he is queer after a chance encounter with an Italian immigrant, Serge Bartolo, who struggles in French class.  Serge has a proposal that they become friends since they are complete opposites and thus complement each other.  Serge is good at math and precocious in sexuality, while Francois is exceptional in French and knows many females but doesn't score with them.  Francois' best mate is a female named Maïté Alvarez, whom both Serge and Henri lust after, but Maite is afraid of intimacy with men so she avoids their individual company and instead clings to her best friend, Francois (At one point, Maite says, "I don't like guys who look at girls just as girls" and Francois replies that "It's human nature."  She states, "Then I don't like human nature.")  Maite admits that she wishes she could just grow up and be rid of her mum and Francois but at the same time she loves them both dearly.  After Francois admits that he has been with a man, she quickly reassures him that she doesn't care and that she still needs his emotional support.

The namesake of the film comes from a fable by Jean de La Fontaine, "The Oak and the Reed:"

The oak said to the reed:
"Nature did you wrong.
To you a tiny wren is a burden.
A mild puff of wind forces your head low.
I, a huge Caucasian peak, defy the sun's rays and the raging storms.
A gale for you is a breeze for me.
If you let me shelter you, you would suffer less.
I would defend you.
But you were born on the edges of the kingdom of storms.
Nature was unfair to you."

"Your pity," answered the reed, "is kind, but unnecessary.
I fear not the wind.
I bend without breaking.
You have borne its gusts without flexing your spine.
But wait and see."

And as he spoke, from the distant horizon
came the worst storm the North has ever known.

The oak remained rigid, the reed bent.

Harder, the wind uprooted him whose head touched the sky
and whose feet, the empire of the dead.

(This translated version is transcribed from the Andre Techine's film.)

1 comment:

  1. Only got to see half the movie. but will watch the rest of it soon, it looks good