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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


Directed by Agnes Varda
Home Vision 01/86 DVD/VHS Feature Film

Mona, at 18 years of age, lies dead in a ditch, frozen to death. In this extraordinary French film by Agnès Varda, we meet the individuals whose lives were briefly touched by this homeless drifter.

There is a middle-aged agronomist and tree expert who picks Mona up and gives her a ride. Eventually the girl uses her car for temporary shelter, but rebuffs all other offers of assistance.

A goat herder who is something of a philosopher takes the vagabond under his wing. He provides her a place to stay and some land to work, but Mona refuses to take on such a responsibility. She prefers the road. The farmer, disappointed and a bit peeved, declares: "It's not wandering, it's withering."

Mona then settles down with a lover who provides her with dope and companionship. She is next befriended by a young woman who serves as housekeeper and caretaker for an elderly rich lady. The closest Mona comes to revealing herself to another human being is when she shares a few drinks with the elderly woman.

A Tunisian vineyard worker lets Mona stay with him, but when his co-workers return they force her out.

Vagabond is a grim, stark, and provocative film in which Sandrine Bonnaire gives a mesmerizing performance as Mona. This talented actress conveys the loneliness, the waywardness, the stubbornness, and the rebelliousness of this drifter. Men take advantage of her, and women are stunned by her solitude. Is she a free soul or a lost individual?

Agnès Varda doesn't editorialize: "I want spectators to define themselves vis-à-vis Mona." Vagabond compels us to reassess our values concerning security, responsibility, and community and poses the following disturbing question: Is there anything that can be done for individuals who don't want to be helped?


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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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