Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Winter's Bone - A Film by Debra Granik

Hush-a-bye, my baby, go to sleep on mama’s knee.
Journey back to these old hills in dreams again with me.
It seems like your mama was there once again
and the old folks were strummin’ that same old refrain.

Women with hard, lined faces
Doors that slam open and offer no entrance, or dubious entrance
Children who learn to spot and gut a squirrel, but still jump, laugh, play in the cold air on hay bales taller than they
Yards with stray shoes, scattered and broken toys and cars, clothes hanging in the wind, and ramshackle coops where hens cackle
Men with closed faces and a heavy presence
Thick blood, hardening in its maze of lines
One mother gone quietly and sweetly mad

And this girl-woman with a round face and wary eyes and hands wrapped tight around what she wills not to lose

Winter’s Bone, the story of this girl-woman, Ree, opens with a lullaby – a lone, unaccompanied voice, singing out its tenderness and warmth, heartache and years. And while the story and the characters here are driven forward by a particular need, a particular mystery, what this film really does is immerse me in a place and a people and a feeling, at once utterly foreign to me and somehow deeply familiar – as foreign as an unknown, winding road in the night and as familiar as my own mother’s voice.

This film feels like music, but not like the complex density of a Bach fugue – it’s something at once simpler and less traceable than that. There’s a scene in the movie in which Ree, on her quest, steps into the home of friend – here, other friends, family, neighbors, perhaps, have gathered to celebrate a birthday. The rooms are full but the celebration is quiet and unassuming –and in one corner a group of musicians is playing, as much for themselves and their pleasure as for anyone else - country instruments and a woman singer, a woman with a face that would never sell an album but with a voice so sweet and low that I at once fell under her spell. Like that music – particular music I’ve never heard before but feel I must have because it so quickly embedded in my bones – this film burrows deep.

Way down in Missouri where I heard this lullaby
when the stars were blinkin’ and the moon was shining high,
and I hear mama callin’ as in days long ago,
singing hush-a-bye.

(To hear the full lullaby, go here: )

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