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Review: The Secret Life of Words

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The consequences of having lived

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- Words have a life, and this life lies entirely in the "spoken", in the challenge of the unspeakable. Precisely like cinema, which confronts that which cannot be adequately expressed

Review: The Secret Life of Words

Words have a life, and this life lies entirely in the “spoken”, in the challenge of the unspeakable. Precisely like cinema, which confronts that which cannot be adequately expressed. Hanna, the main character of Isabel Coixet’s film, is deaf. She has a device through that allows her to hear everything, but never turns it on because silence is her defence. She barely speaks, because her words hurt her, and would hurt the world. Her inexpressible pain comes from the violence she experienced, survived, and was forced to “witness" during the war in the former Yugoslavia. Her meeting Joseph, badly burnt and momentarily blind, takes place "on terrain that expands towards a horizon that goes beyond the notion of martyrdom. There is not even the cult of pain. Just a vision of how suffering leads to common salvation", as wrote the great English writer, poet and art critic John Berger, Coixet’s intellectual point of reference.

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The isolation of the oil rig on which the film is set, 50,000 tons of steel battered each day by thousands of waves, metaphorically circumscribes a microcosmos of a "cruel fairy tale", a kind of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (as the director describes her film), whose weaknesses are the consequence of having lived. Hanna washes Joseph’s body, like Mary Magdalene with Christ in a Giotto painting, a water ritual that symbolizes rebirth. A happy ending in a world of forgotten, erased wars, continuously programmed and threatened, is a provocation on the part of the director: take refuge in love, in words, in mutual acknowledgement. A limbo in which wounds melt away into tears and wars become intimate battles.

(Translated from Italian)

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international title: The Secret Life of Words
original title: La vida secreta de las palabras
country: Spain
sales agent: El Deseao (ES)
year: 2005
directed by: Isabel Coixet
screenplay: Isabel Coixet
cast: Javier Cámara, Sverre Anker Ousdal, Steven Mackintosh, Tim Robbins, Sarah Polley, Julie Christie

main awards/selection

EFA 2006 selection
Goya 2006 Best Film; Best Director (Isabel Coixet); Best Production Supervision (Esther Garcia); Best Original Screenplay
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