One way of looking at romantic love is through these three stages: - Love without Knowledge - Knowledge without Love - Love with Knowledge The first film we’ll look at in this context is Sleepless in Seattle (1993), a prime example of Love without Knowledge. This film does much to promote the myth of romantic love, as prevalent today as it was 20 years ago. In it, Annie (Meg Ryan) hears Sam (Tom Hanks), a caller on a late-night radio show, talking about his feelings about his deceased wife. Based on this, Annie goes on a quest to meet him, feeling like he might be The One.
Even though this film was made in 1999, and took place in 1969, many of the themes covered in A Walk on the Moon are still relevant for some women and some relationships today. Set in the 60’s, a time of change, this film poses questions of unlived lives, longing, sacrifice, duty, and choice. Our characters grieve for what cannot be, explore new territory, and experience initiations. Pearl (Diane Lane) is our heroine, and Marty (Liev Schreiber) is her husband. They got married when Marty got Pearl pregnant at 17. Both of them have their share of unlived life. Teen-aged Marty’s boss at the time would have paid for his college education had he not impregnated Pearl. Marty’s dream was to be an engineer and instead he ended up working in a TV repair shop. Womens' dreams in this era were much more circumscribed, so that Pearl ended up with a nameless longing for something more out of life. On their yearly summer vacation, at a Jewish camp in upstate New York, Pearl meets Walker, the “Blouse Man” (Viggo Mortensen), a hippie who comes to the camp selling women’s clothing and accessories. Right away, we see that there is chemistry between the Blouse Man and Pearl. We can see his diplomacy, sensitivity, and generosity in dealing with two ladies fighting over one blouse. We find out these qualities are genuine as we get to know him better.
"My heart is a lonely hunter that hunts on a lonely hill” ~ Fiona Macleod “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” (1968) is based on Carson McCullers’ novel of the same name, starring Alan Arkin as deaf-mute John Singer. His best and perhaps only friend is Spiros Antonapoulos, also a deaf-mute. Due to his growing lack of impulse control because of mental illness, Spiros is institutionalized by his cousin/guardian. Singer moves to a town near the institution to be closer to his friend.
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.
Certain films point to the creativity that can follow in the aftermath of an impeded, unrequited or lost love, or simply a love that just doesn’t work out. Sometimes a juncture is reached in a relationship in which it can go no further, whether through death, divorce, rejection, betrayal, circumstance or choice. There are various ways we can react to such loss and grief. We can be in denial, numb out, avoid our pain through addiction of any sort (including busy-ness), become stuck in the past, or try to find another “love object” ASAP, among other things. We can sublimate, or something new can emerge (more about these further on).
If you enjoy smart, well-acted and beautifully filmed British movies where psychological nuance drives the story rather than plot, then be sure to see Cracks (2009), starring Eva Green. This exquisite film was directed by Jordan Scott, and produced by her father Ridley Scott and uncle Tony Scott. Based on a novel by Sheila Kohler, Cracks revolves around a charismatic teacher Miss G (Eva Green) at an English boarding school for girls, located on Stanley Island in the year 1934. Miss G's influence on her "team" of students recalls the way Maggie Smith enthralled and shaped her own young proteges in The Prime of Miss Jean Brody (1969), though with more sinister undertones. Miss Brody was narcissistic and self-deceived; Miss G suffers from crippling agoraphobia and takes flight from reality into grandiose fantasies of herself as a world traveler. While she inspires her students to believe in themselves and their potential, she also relies upon their adulation and belief in her lies to sustain those delusions.
Is this man sexy? It seems challenging to find a “good” man (especially a father) who is presented as a sexual being in movies. This seems to reflect the “split” in our society; having lots of sex and being sexy is touted as being supremely desirable, especially in advertising, yet we don’t see many male role models in television or film depicting an integrated male sexuality. What I mean by this is a man considered both “good” and hot.
Adolescence is a tricky time for fathers and daughters. The film My First Mister (2001) presents some ideas of how to skillfully traverse this territory. Jennifer (Leelee Sobieski), who goes by the name of “J,” has just graduated from high school. She self-mutilates, is a “goth,” and is alone, lonely and nihilistic. Her parents are divorced. Her mother (Carol Kane) is Pollyanna-ish; the mother and daughter are polar opposites who can’t relate. Her father (John Goodman) is a pothead with whom she has very little contact.
When I decided to watch The Company Men with Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper, I was hoping it might show how crisis can teach us the importance of truly meaningful work in our lives. Or maybe how men who define themselves almost exclusively in terms of their professional roles can learn and grow when their self-perceptions are challenged. While The Company Men briefly toys with such ideas -- Ben Affleck's character actually shoots hoops with his son in one of the final scenes! -- here's what I really learned from watching this movie:
In Part I, we saw big changes in Pleasantville, now: the Mayor tries to regain control of the situation by organizing a town hall meeting. He represents the fascistic part of our Super-Ego clinging on to old value systems for dear life by rallying defense mechanisms. This part rejects, banishes, and excludes those aspects of ourselves that bring up unwanted painful and shameful emotions in order to keep things comfortable and “pleasant.”