In Part I, I wrote about ideas of lost love and creativity; here are some film examples of these ideas.
Facing Windows (Italian, 2003): Giovanna finds her creative passion, becoming a pastry chef, after realizing that the neighbor she’s idealized and desired for so long is not the answer to her discontent and yearning.
500 Days of Summer (2009): Tom has been blocked creatively for years, writing Hallmark-type cards for a living instead of pursuing a career in architecture. After being jilted by his girlfriend, Summer, he falls into a long dark night of the soul, and emerges into a new creative state.
Under the Tuscan Sun (2003): Frances (Diane Lane) moves to Tuscany to recover from a sudden divorce. She is then disappointed by a love affair and finds meaning and satisfaction in remodeling an old dilapidated villa.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008): After losing his girlfriend to another man and then alienating a new possible partner, Peter finally turns truly inward, in a bout of “real suffering,” resulting in the creation of his long-time dream of writing and producing a Dracula puppet rock opera.
Bagdad Café (1987): The Bagdad Café is a run-down restaurant-motel in the middle of the desert run by Brenda, who has just kicked her husband out of the house. Jasmin, a German tourist abandoned by her spouse, lodges there while she sorts out her next steps. The two women revitalize the establishment. Performing magic shows in the evening, Brenda transforms her bitterness and Jasmin her sense of being lost, and both thrive in ways they most likely hadn’t ever before.
The Visitor (2007): Walter, a widowed, introverted and lonely middle-aged man, learns how to drum from Tarek, an illegal immigrant. Due to their deportation, Walter is unable to continue a romance he’s begun with Tarek’s mother, Mouna. Unlike a typical Hollywood ending, where Walter would have followed Mouna, we see him throwing himself into his drumming, and out of his isolation.
Now, Voyager (1942): Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis) is a homely, overweight spinster dominated by her mother. After vast self-improvements under the care of a psychiatrist in a sanatorium stay, Charlotte takes a cruise and falls in love with Jerry, a married man, who will never leave his wife. Our heroine, using what she’s learned from her doctor and her own inner growth, ends up helping Jerry’s troubled daughter, Tina, at the sanatorium. We see the sense of deep contentment that Charlotte experiences. Also noteworthy is the now-collegial relationship she has with her doctor, which feels a lot like love, although not romantic.
Bread and Tulips (Italian, 2000): Rosalba, a taken-for-granted housewife, is left stranded on a family vacation and starts a new life for herself in Venice. She finds a job at a florist and starts playing the accordion again.
Brick Lane (Indian, 2007): Nazneen, born and raised in a village in India, is sent off to marry an older Indian man living in England when she is just 17. She is a dutiful wife and mother. Things start stirring within her first when she meets her new neighbor, another Indian woman, who has her own sewing business run out of her home. Then Nazneen meets a young man, Karim, with whom she starts an affair. Presented a choice to either return to India with her husband, or to start a new life with Karim, she opts for a creative way out: to stay with her young daughters in England and earn her own living as a seamstress.
Living Out Loud (1998): Judith (Holly Hunter) has been left for another woman by her husband, Robert, for whom she gave up her medical studies to marry. At first depressed, and then hopeful when having a brief encounter with a new man, she eventually does her inner work and grieving, and pursues her dream of becoming a pediatrician.
[Some of these films point to the possibility of a new “Other” on the horizon, and others do not. I feel that the latter may be more instructive as they don’t offer up hope for the next romantic liaison that might fill the gap.]
There is life after loss, and I believe our quality of life is enhanced by our ability to feel our whole range of emotions, including our grief. It is challenging to be a fully feeling human being, but being so allows us more access to our creativity and depths.
“Creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives… [and] when we are involved in it, we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life.”
–Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow