The reality of modern day romance.
Love is always going to be an area which, as a writer, I take great joy in exploring. Recently I’ve watched a few films which have taken me back to pondering over what is love? What is it about my favourite scenes in films and books which show love, or at least, a version of it which make it special? Realistic? Memorable.
Because rarely is it an actual clip of dialogue. An “I love you” doesn’t mean shit, sadly. Anyone can say the words.
In films and books set long before the convenience of this modern day world, romance was not what it is today.
Today if you miss someone, they are four clicks away on one screen or another. If you want to see where someone is or what they are up to and how they’re looking now; you can Facebook the hell out of them, or Instastalk, or haunt their Twitter feed. The mystery is gone; the hardship is gone.
How can you miss someone, now, when they are always present in one form or another?
In many ways I think it’s made modern romance a dead field. People are lazy, because it’s easy to meet partners nowadays, easy to meet more of them too, and there’s less need I suppose to work hard for one specific person when you’ve got half a dozen more in sight. Once upon a time people fell wildly in love and being together would mean something. It would be all consuming and difficult; they’d actually have to travel and make an active effort to see one another, to simply speak to one another. And that’s all gone now.
I’m not sure actually why I’m voicing these thoughts, I suppose it’s because I am a romantic, and when I see these tiny acts of romance in films and books I long for them. I’m not after grand gestures of sweeping declarations, but the little things which make a heart ache.
These are things which are increasingly rarer to find, and as a writer, they’re hard to create. How can romantic moments be written authentically?
Spoilers ahead probably.
Okay so I need to talk about this film, I watched it last night and I’m still overtly emotional. Basically I was really enjoying it; it’s witty, the characters are enjoyable to watch and it truly sucks you into 1940s Britain. And then, OUT OF NOWHERE, it stabs you in the heart. A literal, physical stab. You’re rooting for our protagonists to just have a little happiness in their otherwise drab lives and just when you think you get it, nope, sorry, yanked right out of your grasping hands. And instead of there being a happy freaking ending, you are instead left with one of the harsh realities of life; shit happens. Sorry.
Still, if you can forgive the soul crushing twist, Their Finest does feature what is probably one of my favourite scenes of declarations. Male protagonist Buckley who is very English and also clearly shit with the ladies, just kind of spurts out a marriage proposal. It’s so awkward and endearing and clearly unplanned, I couldn’t help but think how sweet that rawness is.
Okay if you can overlook the many graphic moments, and by graphic I mean graphic, in The Handmaiden; the film itself is actually filled with many sweet little touches between Mistress and Handmaiden which are incredibly innocent.
The chemistry between the two is there, undoubtedly, but there’s friendship there too and they are lovers, but companions first. Their love is simple; happy to be in each other’s company, even if it is just to play dress up or take a walk outside. There’s a scene towards the end of the film where the handmaiden learns of just what her Mistress has been forced to do in the library. The priceless books and scrolls are full of disgusting erotica, and they have been tools instrumental in the torture which the Mistress has endured for her entire life. When the handmaiden understands this, she loses her shit. She wrecks the library, as her Mistress stands by in awe, and destroy every last one of the priceless pieces. It’s a powerful scene, showing the entirety of her love, as she rains destruction on all which has hurt her Mistress. And when the Mistress joins in, you know she is finally freeing herself, because she is no longer alone.
The Zookeeper’s Wife
Another film that’s out at the moment, The Zookeeper’s Wife is set in WW2 Poland under Nazi rule and as you might have guessed from the title, is about Jan and Antonia Zabinski- the owner’s of the Warsaw zoo, which at the time of occupation was one of the biggest Zoos in Europe.
This is another film in which I cried throughout. I cried for the people, for the animals, for the whole damn thing. But the part I want to talk about is all of thirty seconds.
In the film we have Antonia and Jan, and then on the sidelines we have Lutz. Lutz is a hard character to paint because as Hitler’s top Zoologist, he is Nazi, but of course he is also a man. And furthermore, he was friends with Antonia and Jan (or at least, acquaintances) before the war. And so Lutz is familiar and we get to see him as a person (and not simply a uniform) at the very beginning of the film, prior to Hitler’s invasion of Poland. He is also smitten with Antonia, and sees in her a kindred spirit. She’s incredibly passionate about animals and, contrast to many women in the 1940s, she’s a hands on kinda gal- we even see her birthing elephants and the like.
Lutz kind of slinks on in, since her husband isn’t around so much, and there’s a scene where he and Antonia are washing their hands with a bucket of water. And there, he washes her hands for her. It’s a moment riddled with a firm lack of propriety; she is not his to touch, and he knows it. But can’t help it. So he washes her hands. It’s a gentle moment in a film which is filled with horrors.
Lust, Caution is one of my favourite films. Based on a novella of the same name by Eileen Chang, it’s a tale of seduction and betrayal. A young girl sent into the lion’s den by a band of resistance operatives in 1940s Japanese occupied Shanghai, tasked with seducing and orchestrating the assassination of a high ranking government official. Mr Yee, said official, is a cold and dangerous man. But he’s a man nonetheless and he begins a passionate love affair with the seductress. What begins as a violent outlet turns into a deeper and emotional relationship and Chia Chi, our young girl, becomes conflicted. There’s a moment where, travelling in Yee’s car, she is holding his hand gently and he flips it, and takes it in his own. He is not only the dominant hand, but also the dominant leg of this relationship and there is so much possession and feeling in that one scene, not one word needs to be said.
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