La Vida secreta de las palabras

La Vida secreta de las palabras
The secret life of words (2005)
   Difficult and intense, Isabel Coixet's film was consistent with her ongoing investigation into wounded souls and suppressed emotions slowly worming their way to her characters' surfaces. The "words" referred to in the title are experiences so unbearable that they are buried deep in the characters' minds. It takes a long time for audiences to realize what ails Hannah (Sarah Polley), a former nurse working in a paper factory in a North Sea town, who is forced by her superiors to take a holiday. Intriguingly unable to relax into a period of leisure, she overhears a man on the phone who says someone is needed on an oil rig to take care of an accident victim who cannot be moved. Hannah volunteers. The victim is Josef (Tim Robbins), a man with regrets of his own, more talkative but equally reserved about them, who is suffering from temporary blindness. The relationship between them is difficult, especially due to Hannah's un-communicative nature, but it will grow into something so strong as to make Hannah open up about her past as a torture victim and then turn her back on Josef, unable to face the weight of memories.
   The film is visually arresting, presenting a location rarely seen on film, and lingering on it with patient, obsessive attention. Following the accident, the platform is almost deserted, and its few inhabitants (including a cook and an oceanographer) lead aimless, expectant existences. Coixet's camera is fascinated by every small detail in the rig: the lonely flower pots, the basketball pole, a goose, a swing. The film is more effective for its refusal to work within the conventions of classical, event-driven narratives. On the one hand, the director achieves a sense of stillness that will make the impact of the final revelations even stronger. Also, characters are presented as part of a time continuum and within a capsule at the same time, and it is suggested that each of them has his own secret words buried within.
   The film was produced by El Deseo S.A. on a budget of $5,000,000. It opened to respectable business in Europe. Typically for a Coixet film, it was shot in English and the central characters were English-speaking actors, which made the film more marketable outside Spain. Critics lavished praise on Polley's raw uncompromising performance and on Coixet's direction. The latter won the Goya that year, as did the film itself.

Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. . 2010.

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