Monday, November 23, 2009

I've Loved You So Long

This weekend I watched I've Loved You So Long (Il y a longtemps que je t'aime), a 2008 French film in which Kristin Scott Thomas stars as a woman recently released from prison after a fifteen year sentence for murdering her six year old son.

The film presents a jarringly compassionate portrait of an infanticide, her strugglings to regain her footing in life following release, her reintegration into her family, and her inability to forgive herself for her past.

Both the relatively lenient sentence (by American standards) and the generosity with which the character is generally treated, both by the film itself and the other characters in the film, made the film seem truly foreign in sensibility.

I have posted here previously about my concerns about a general lack of forgiveness in American society for those who have strayed from the path and the remarkably different approach that seems to animate criminal justice in Europe.

A comment by one of the characters, when he found out that Kristin Scott Thomas's character had been in prison for murder, struck a chord with me, reminding me of one of my favorite lines from Capote - "It's like Perry and I grew up in the same house, and one day he went out the back door and I went out the front" - though without the solipsism.

The character, a professor who befriends the woman, tries to comfort her when others discovery her secret:
I spent ten years teaching in prison. I never mention it. I went there three times a week. And I got out three times a week. Nothing was the same after. I saw everything differently. Other people . . . The sky . . . The passing of time . . . I realized that people in prison were like me. They could have been me, or I them. It's such a fine line sometimes.
I have spent the last decade meeting with men in prisons - mostly men facing the death penalty for murder - and I have never walked through the gates without a sense of gratitude and good fortune because that fine, and often well out of our control, line between praise and blame is no where more obvious.

* Here's the trailer.

1 comment:

  1. It is so true. As part of my work at the public library, I visited the nursery at Riker's Island. This is where women who have babies stay while they are detained. You would never suspect these sweet women were on trial for any crime. They were eager to learn about child development, asked for books and magazines, and shared photos of their older children at home. It was a sobering experience.