Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Farmer's Wife

I had a great, if long, day yesterday. Lunch with friends, a fantastic dinner with family, job hunting and family visitation in between, and finally, a very naughty all night movie watching session. It all just makes me wonder how in the world I can possibly shoehorn a job into a life already so full.

My checkbook reminds me I'll be finding a way. Heh.

I recently found myself in the unusual position of having mailed back every Netflix movie I had in the house before receiving a single replacement. For a sane person, this would mean...oh, I don't know...maybe NOT watching a movie for a while? Say, a day? For me, however, this just means a quick trip to the library to hunt the non-fiction shelves (primarily) and some no-cost movie viewing. One of my few bad habits that dovetails nicely with my current budget (Dear Ben Franklin: I love you, man!).

I continue to be surprised at the movie availability at our little library, especially the documentary selection. I noticed, for instance, that 51 Birch Street is on the shelf already. Also, I recently breathlessly watched The Staircase courtesy of the library. Somebody knows what they are doing. And, frankly, in this town? I'm surprised they are getting away with it. I make it a habit to tell the library staff how appreciative I am at the check-out desk.

My most recent library selection, and the one that kept me kept me glued to the TV into the wee hours of this morning, was The Farmer's Wife. The film, from PBS Frontline, tells the quiet but desperate story of Darrell and Juanita Buschkoetter, a young Nebraska couple, as they struggle to eek out a living by farming a small, leased plot of land in Nebraska. The film covers three years in the lives of the Buschkoetters (pronounced "Bush-cutter") from 1995-1997.

Perhaps more than any other documentary I've seen, awareness of the camera on the part of the subject family (that includes three elementary school aged girls) just completely fades away.

We see the girls cooking their first batch of mac and cheese for their Mom's birthday dinner, listen as an exhausted Juanita and Darrell talk in bed at the end of long days when the couple has put in an almost super human amount of work only to find themselves, at one point, in a position to qualify for food stamps.

We are there when the couple has to borrow money from the FHA to finance the year's crop and and there when they meet with their creditors to ask for extensions on their loans. We listen as the couple both separately and together try to reconcile the difficult reality of their day-to-day lives with the idealistic dreams of their courtship.

We are there when the doubt creeps in: him about her, her about him. We are there when he understands why she is so tired, we are there when she listens to him vent. Again. We are there when the patience runs out.

While there are segments of the movie that find Darrell and Juanita face-to-face with the camera, there are no questions from the film maker(s). It is the words of the Buschkoetters alone that tell the story. And tell it they do, without a trace of self consciousness or hesitation.

Ultimately, the film is a naked portrait of a relationship. A relationship facing the overwhelming struggle for a way of life that is fast fading away. No special effects, just real life. The biggest drama of all.

You can view the first hour or so of The Farmer's Wife here.

2 comments:

ChristaD said...

This has been recommended a couple of times on Netflix. Now I know I'll rent it. Thanks!

sandy said...

ChristaD you don't need to rent the video Farmer's Wife. You can sign it out at your community library. I have been watching some amazing videos for free. its like going to the movies every day. Does anyone know whatever became of the Bushcutter family? Did Juanita end up leaving her husband?