Il a été frappé comme en plein fouet.

Il a été frappé comme en plein fouet.

ee lah ay-tay fraa-pay kuh mah plaa fwAY. Click below to hear this.*

He was hit…like…head-on.

Another line from the film “La Délicatesse”, “Delicacy” (see yesterday’s post). Early in the film (I’m not giving anything away), Nathalie’s husband François is killed in an accident. Her parents are waiting at the hospital, and they try to explain to her why she can’t go see her husband.

Nathalie’s mother delivers this line quietly, almost as if embarrassed to have to say it. The comme in the middle is an attempt to soften the emotional blow–a violent contrast with the reality of the statement.

Un fouet is a whip, and plein means full or fully. So another way to translate the sentence would be He…um…took the full force of the blow.

And why did the director not play the usual hospital-room scene? Wouldn’t seeing François bandaged, immobile, surrounded by machines, have delivered the full force of the blow to the audience?

But that wasn’t his point. It’s what comes afterwards that matters: Nathalie’s back, bent to the point where we can barely see her head, slowly receding up the stairs at her parents’ home. Nathalie curled up on the bed without even removing her coat. Nathalie returning to her apartment, her back in sharp focus, the entire room blurred. All of this, so–dare I say?–delicately understated, does a far better job of recreating the absence in Nathalie’s life. Sometimes, no words are needed.

*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file:


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