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M: So, what did you think?

F: About the film?  Well, it wasn’t exactly a bundle of laughs.

M: No, but about her, about what she did?

F: I don’t know.  I suppose I felt angry with him, for having all the power and for using it against her.  It was vile.  I mean, OK, she’d had an affair, but that doesn’t give him the right to rape her.  Physically and morally, I mean.  He made sure she had nothing except her clothes.

M: Not forgetting her lover.

F: Yes, and her lover.  He was quite cute, actually, but then he’s an actor, not really a bit of rough.  But he wasn’t much use when it came to buy food in the supermarket or filling the car with petrol, and, anyway, it was still about what was between the husband and wife.  That’s what had caused the rift.  He was just an incidental.

M: Who says?  We don’t know.  The film doesn’t show us.  It looked as if she was, as her husband said, like “a bitch on heat”, just looking for some rough sex.

F: You don’t leave your family for rough sex, though.  You just have the rough sex and come home, don’t you?

M: You do if you are a man, perhaps.  But she wasn’t.

F: No, I had noticed.  Flat-chested, but definitely female.

M: Heartless, too.  No remorse, apparently.  One expression of regret and that was it.

F: I agree, and she didn’t get my sympathy because of that.  Then again, it would be difficult to feel sorry for someone who had just raped you.

M: But he didn’t deserve to die, did he?  She had other ways out – like heading off with her lover towards Spain and finding a physio job elsewhere.  Don’t tell me there are no physio jobs in France or that her husband controlled everything everywhere.  Besides, didn’t she owe it to her husband to try to sort things out with him?

F:  Of course she did.  But we weren’t shown a woman who had options.  She was shown as a woman possessed, who couldn’t do “autrement”, when she did have choices and could have acted differently.  She was very selfish, when it comes down to it.  I don’ t think she was thinking about anyone except herself, not even her lover.

M: But the switch from companionable long-lasting love, to hate.  That was horrible.  It’s like there are two sides to the coin.  Love and Power and if you flip the coin over, you get the ugly side, the anger, the desire to hurt the other person.

F: It’s easier to hurt the other person than to feel the hurt yourself.  Anger keeps you going.  At least for a while.

M: So the husband used his anger to stop himself feeling hurt.  Wouldn’t the hurt have crept in eventually?

F: Sure, except she killed him, so it never got to that point.  And, for some people, the anger never does give way to a more realistic picture.

M:  I can think of a few …

F: No, but for most people, after a while, when the anger has gone, most people – except the narcissists, of course, can see that there were two sides.  And narcissists don’t wait to be left.  They do the leaving.  So most people do see that they contributed to what happened, which is not excuse it, but to begin to understand.  And all the family crap, the baggage too.  Which I guess everyone has to some degree.  I don’t think, in real life, that something like this comes out of nowhere.

M: She looked a lot like Felicia and Angela, sort of combined.  I kept imagining that it was them, all the time.  It was uncanny.

F: Do you think they have had similar experiences?

M: Felicia, perhaps, so they say.  Angela?  No idea.  But I can imagine that Felicia’s husband might have used all his power to get her to come back, given her a few more swimming pools and walled gardens, and I cannot exactly imagine her packing melons, not for anybody.  What gets me, though, is if the boot had been on the other foot and the husband had had the affair and left … he would have ended up with his lover and the money.

F: Ah, yes, but then she would have used her power.

M: What power?  She didn’t have any.

F: Not in this plot, no.  But reverse it so she’s the one left at home.   She had the children.

M: Yes, you’re right.  But he had the children in the film too, and he didn’t use them, not until the end.  The man uses his wallet and the woman uses the children.  Bargaining chips when the love has gone.

F: You cannot blame them.  You just use whatever you have.  Like Tony saying he’d leave the country if Anna asked him for money after she left.  Or Kathryn saying that Richard had hit the children after he left.  She should have stayed.  It wasn’t reason enough to leave.  Should have been a Meryl Streep in Bridges of Madison County ending.  Except, come to think of it, she was terminally sad afterwards, wasn’t she.

M: God.  Horrible, isn’t it.  Makes you shudder, what people do to each other.

F: When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.  Which is why it is such a good film.  I mean, look at Nick sitting in the audience with a new girlfriend.  I bet he’d heard almost every line in that film, and he ended up with the bum deal.  His wife left him and hooked up with a rich man and he’s got nothing.

M: Yup.  But that does happen, doesn’t it?

F: Yes, because she hooked up with a man who had more power than her husband had.  Like Diana, leaving Paul for Mark R.

M: No.  In that case, she already had all the power, because the money was hers.

F: Unusual.  But it happens.  Makes me feel sick.

M: Not pretty, I agree.

F: I felt sorry for the lover.  He was so powerless.  Surprising he didn’t turn round and bite her really.  She ruined his life and I think he loved her.  She should have left him alone.

M: Oh, come on.  He’s an adult.  Not a victim.  He probably couldn’t believe his luck.  What else did he have going for him?  Some dead-end building job, crappy one bedroom flat in a dump of an HLM, seeing his daughter once a month.  She was a fantasy, a diamond in a life of concrete.

F: Blood diamond, more like.  Actually, come to think of it.  The diamond round her neck was the one constant in her wardrobe.  I’d like one like that, nestled just in the dip in her clavicle.

F: Hmmm.  Interesting interviews.  Noticed that she used “terrible” in an English not a French way?  Can you do that? Interesting how she latches onto the woman discovering “desire” as if she’d never experienced it before.

M: I agree.  Puts desire and financial security in opposition to each other.  Can’t they exist together?

F:  Not as she describes it, because she’s talking about women who are unhappy in their marriages but have to stay because they don’t have any choice.  They might have financial security, but, sure as hell, they are not going to experience desire in that set-up.

M: Why not?

F: Well, because there was no love.

M: Didn’t look as if it was love that was driving her in the film.  More like lust.  Animal passion.

F: Perhaps.  But she felt desired, and she desired in return.  It was mutual.  It has to be mutual.  It won’t work if there is a power imbalance.

M: Not sure about that.  What about a situation where a man has all the power.  What does the woman feel then?

F: Abused?  Exploited?  Used?  Gone far enough down that road, I think.  But I challenge you to find one realistic love affair where there is no equality.

M: Done.  I take issue with you on one thing.  You said she felt desired and felt desire in return.  It didn’t look like that to me.  Not in that order.  OK.  So he kissed her.  But what about her behaviour packing up all the stuff, right at the beginning.  Big come on, wasn’t it. Who desired who first?

F: Ah, you’ll have to watch it again to see.

M: Brilliant film though.