Thoughts On: Vagabond - When The Music Stops


Vagabond - When The Music Stops

Quick Thoughts: Vagabond (Sans Toit Ni Loi, 1985)

A girl nobody knows, but has wandered into many lives, dies.

Agnes Varda's Vagabond is a brilliantly constructed film that confronts and presents a main character in a manner that is quite rare. Following a wandering female hitchhiker, this film is a constant question of who? and why? In such, we are not only wondering who our main character, Mona, is and what she wants form life, but also why she is in the situation she is in and why we are watching her. What then makes Vagabond, as with all of Varda's best films, so unique and relatively rare is its distinct feminine voice.

It must be noted, however, that Vagabond is not a particularly fun film, and nor is its main character particularly rational or likeable. Defined by pugnacious indecisiveness, Mona is trapped in an existential crisis; she wants freedom, but sometimes lets through hints of the pain she feels as a lonesome wanderer. The most expressive element of this narrative is then the motif of music.

In music, there is harmony; you can step into a sonic world of melodic and rhythmic structures and find peace, unity, sense, euphoria or a plethora of other emotions. The real world, however, is not constructed like the musical realm: harmony is very difficult to find and maintain. With Mona's love of music, alongside other transcendental substances such as alcohol, weed and sexual pleasure, comes a clear message that she doesn't want to be apart of the real world - or it is at least implied that the real world is not something that she wants to confront. The many existential questions she raises along her journey then are: How must one interact with the disharmony and imperfect, sometimes dysfunctional, social structures of the human world? How does one operate as a cog in a system who wants freedom? Can the system be escaped - need it be escaped - or can we only perpetuate our relationship with it under a positive or negate feedback loop whereby all that we hate and are within the rules of a game are only emphasised and further contorted?

Using these questions, Vagabond explores the Mona's perception of relationships whilst briefly depicting the average person's reactions to her as an outsider and as a radical dissenter of the traditional pathways of life. However, in being a tragedy of sorts, Vagabond is ultimately about the disharmony of nature - human nature as well as all that effects and surrounds it. For the way in which this is cinematically articulately, this film certainly deserves much praise.

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