Vagabond (1985)

Vagabond (1985)

In a series of flashbacks, this drama traces the final steps of a transient woman on her uncharted journey across the French countryside to her lonely end

7.9

Movie

France, United Kingdom
Arabic, French
Drama
1985
AGNÈS VARDA, FEMALE DIRECTOR
Agnès Varda, Macha Méril, Sandrine Bonnaire
105 min

What it's about

Mona Bergeron is dead, her frozen body found in a ditch in the French countryside. From this, the film flashes back to the weeks leading up to her death. Through these flashbacks, Mona gradually declines as she travels from place to place, taking odd jobs and staying with whomever will offer her a place to sleep. Mona is fiercely independent, craving freedom over comfort, but it is this desire to be free that will eventually lead to her demise.

The take

Even before Agnès Varda pivoted to documentary filmmaking, she was a pioneer of French cinema. Her film Sans toit ni loi (Vagabond) is one of her most harrowing dramas. 

Varda’s sensibilities as a burgeoning documentarian are apparent as the film opens on the corpse of a woman lying dead in a snow-covered ditch. Through flashbacks, we trace the titular vagabond’s steps to uncover how she ended up alone and dead. The camera follows its subject from a safe distance, as if tracking a wild animal. Alongside the woman, we hitchhike across the French countryside, encountering hostile men, treacherous winter weather, and occasional glimpses of hope, connection, and familiarity. Vagabond succeeds at portraying a complicated woman—Varda understood that women, above all else, are people, with dark interiors, difficult choices, and uncertain impulses. 

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