Essay title: The Town Is Quiet
The Town is Quiet takes a myriad of intertwined characters and subplots, tying them together to convey Guediguian’s critique of disparities between race, political views, and social standings in Marseilles.
Guediguian takes an underlying existentialist perspective on life in this movie, showing that no matter how hard one tries there is no hope in avoiding their ultimate fate, death. The overall tone of the film is quite grim with the main protagonist Michele living a life in which she works long hours at a local fish-market and then comes home to her drunkard husband and junkie daughter. Her daughter’s addiction to heroin is what leads Michele to contact a childhood friend, Gerard. It is from this that the audience is introduced to Gerard and his crime related life.
Gerard owns a deserted bar that as Michele recollects, was very busy and lively when they were children. It is the overlapping stories of Gerard and Michele which bring out the two most emotionally powerful scenes in this movie. The first scene shows Michele deliberately administering a lethal dose of heroin to her addict daughter; her actions are driven by love, but end in utter disarray as her daughter’s addiction becomes too overwhelming for Michele and she decides to put her daughter to death through euthanasia. The second scene is the concluding one of the movie in which Gerard gets in an altercation and after a brief flashback to his past with relationship Michele as well as a realization of the mess his life is now, puts a gun to his own mouth and kills himself, then suddenly in a beautiful sign of hope, the camera pans to a piano being taken to a poor Georgian boy. There are many similarities in Gerard’s suicide scene and the scene in which Michele takes her daughter, Fiona’s life, but there are also subtle differences in the way that both of these scenes portray a failed attempt of love and the aftermath which leads to a spawning of new hope. From the beginning of the movie Michele lives a life bound for destruction.
She works the night shift at a fish-market packing fish, comes home to a deadbeat husband, and takes care of her daughter’s illegitimate child. Through all these hardships Michele loves and cares for her daughter, as well as her granddaughter, Ameline. This love is what drives Michele to sell her body to produce the money that is required to pay for her daughter’s drug addiction. Her life becomes a depressing cycle of work, prostitution, nursing her granddaughter, and injecting Fiona with heroin before her withdrawals get too unbearable. It is inevitable that her life is on a crash course with destruction. This destruction comes in a scene which shows total desperation by Michele beginning with a noticeably different camera close-up on the tray of heroin that she is preparing for her daughter.
It appears as if she is making a fix that is much more potent than any of the other fixes she prepared for Fiona in the past. Michele uses this strong fix to finally rid Fiona of her problems and put her to death. After Michele has some time to reflect upon the events that just occurred she calls Gerard to come help her clean up the murder scene. The next scene of the movie has Gerard realizing the senselessness of his life, and ultimately deciding to shoot himself in the face. As Gerard leaves Michele’s, he almost hits a pedestrian at an intersection and an altercation occurs. Gerard gets out of his car and pulls a gun on the young man, but suddenly has a flashback of him and Michele as teens rolling around the beach kissing in affection and love.
Gerard suddenly sees what has become of him; his love for Michele which was the only thing that Gerard had going right in his life has ultimately led to the death of Fiona, much in the same way that Michele and Gerard never pursued their adolescent love because Michele decided to get an abortion. Gerard’s epiphany leads him to take his life in a final act of desperation. Gerard saw no hope in his life, or the love that he had strived for so badly, even paying for a portion of the drugs that he was selling to Michele. Both of these scenes are acts of complete despair, as Gerard taking his own life and Michele deciding to kill her daughter seem to be the only way for both parties to avoid the horrible downward spirals that society has seemed to place upon their lives.
All Michele has in her life is a failed attempt at love, drugging Fiona with the best intentions of trying to make things work out for her torn family. The scene leading up to her daughter’s death shows Michele’s anguish as her husband verbally berates her for the drugs she has gotten for Fiona, and Fiona herself cannot even make it until the time for her next fix as her cravings have become too strong and her withdrawals too harsh. Love is not enough to make things work and Michele cannot single handedly fix all of the.