The Secret Life of Words
Independent Films, Film Profiles
The Secret Life of Words is a 2005 Spanish-Irish film, directed by Isabel Coixet and starring Sarah Polley and Tim Robbins.Taciturn, partially deaf Hanna (Polley) is a Yugoslavian native working in a factory in Northern Ireland. She is forced to take a vacation by her boss, who tells her that her co-workers have been offended by her lack of socializing. After overhearing a conversation about a need for a nurse, she takes on a job as private nurse for burn victim Josef (Robbins). He is bedridden on an offshore oil rig after a fire on the rig, and has severe burns and is temporarily blinded. The rig is not operational awaiting an investigation, and few people remain on board.Hanna talks very little, and especially does not want to talk about herself. Despite his pain, Josef is constantly making jokes, some of them humorous sexual advances. Hanna's care for him includes holding the urinal and washing his entire body. As they get closer, they start sharing their experiences. Unbeknownst to him, she listens over and over again to a message on his cell phone from a mysterious woman who was in love with him.Hanna learns from a colleague that Josef was injured while trying to save a man who intentionally threw himself into the oil-rig fire and was killed. Some other tragic connection between the two men is implied. He tells about a near-drowning experience because he cannot swim. Eventually Josef confides to Hanna his greatest secret guilt, and she tells him about her previous life in the former Yugoslavia. She describes in detail the horrors she endured during the Balkan Wars (Yugoslav Wars), including being kidnapped and repeatedly raped. She tells of her own repeated torture and lets him feel the scars on her body from the wounds inflicted on her.Josef is not getting better, and at Hanna's initiative he is air-lifted off the oil rig to be taken to a hospital. When the helicopter lands, Josef wants Hanna to accompany him, but she walks away without a word. However, she leaves behind a backpack (apparently intentionally), and it contains enough information to give Josef a chance to find her. After he recovers, Josef travels to Denmark to visit a counselor Hanna went to after fleeing the war, seeking to learn more about her. He then tracks her down at the factory in Northern Ireland where she works. They talk, and at first she keeps her distance. When he tells her that he will "learn to swim," she reciprocates the love.
Year of Production: 2005
Length: 115 min.
- Isabel Coixet
- Pedro Almodóvar, Esther García
- Sarah Polley, Tim Robbins, Julie Christie