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The Torch: On real love

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There are two pretentious words in this week’s column heading, with no proven way of possible reconciliation known to man. Accordingly I will not pretend it were any different and speak to each of these terms separately.

The cinematic real — that often spoils the love in your (best) film

The TorchEvoking or capturing reality in a film is a matter of aesthetics and the many different (or not so different) theories thereof which may be applied with mixed results. There are as many adherents to one as to another, while people like myself who are concerned with like questions enjoy playing (if not fooling) around with these concepts to see for themselves what can be gained in the process.

Dogme was the only manifesto I know of in my lifetime that managed to convince me, although I didn’t subscribe to it (I never do such a thing on principle). When it was new, Dogme successfully hammered away at your every calcination inside your perceptual apparatus (aka “the brain” by some…). No film until then had struck one as so very “real” as Festen did.

But even that had to end to save it from invariably turning whatever truth it might have succeeded in capturing, into its counterpart lie at the next stop — the common demise awaiting all aesthetic concepts in due time. Thankfully the guys called it off just in time so that it didn’t suffer fossilising to the core, which posed a real danger after a couple of years.

So, what is called for is, of course, originality: the whole spectre of things “real” and their suitable representations. Where to find them, is not for me to tell — clearly I do not know. Just like all the rest I “but venture forth on a quest all my own”! And that to me is the most fascinating part of it, the one challenge to wake up to (and for) every morning.

So much for the real. What of the love, then? The love that no presumed reality shall dare to kill in any (good) film.

For the sake of my argument at this point and to spare myself from getting trapped in addressing a theme somewhat beyond my capacity, I will but once agree to the saying that it is for the French alone to speak out on love. Thus: “Human relations are seldom complex, but very often they just can’t be helped” (M. Houellebecq) is my quote of choice, which should suffice to indicate one possible reading of “love” that I would very much like to see turned into an intelligent motion picture.

Cynicism aside, there certainly is a whole catalogue of approaches to telling a tale of love in film. My taste remains as yet unfulfilled in most of contemporary productions. Certainly films I personally treasure do incorporate these issues and give convincing renditions of different aspects of love that have real substance. Those are films that avoid adhering to that endlessly self-repetitious circle of ephemeral musings which should be discarded as bad romanticism and nothing else.

Were I to make a call to arms on this battlefield, the address I’d give would sound something like this:

“You, who just sit there entrenched in the betraying safety of shallow stereotypes, come out into the melee that’s raging on right there in your face! Glory indeed is to be won all across the plain of the everyday if you resolve to go for love as it is nowadays. Unflinching, even if doing so meant you would have to scrap your usual plan of procedure (the well-paced flatness) and resort to an untested line of attack. Bring the full force of your imagination as well as your life’s experience to bear on a story that charges deeply into new, uncharted territory!”

This campaign has to take on and show the fake, the second-hand and handed–down love of our common times. Show love that’s spoiled for nothing, the pettiness of reason, the shallowness of borrowed emotions, show gay love (just got word that the incredible Miike is set to do something truly titanic in this camp), love that triumphs only in the hour of its greatest defeat. Sometimes true heroism is to be found where you least expect it, I’d say.

Yes, here again I find myself tying up love with reality, and I know how dangerous that is …

To fill you in on the extent of my blunt confusion, I’ll end this with some words of paradoxical wisdom borrowed from my hero Don DeLillo: “Go out and make it all up. Whatever you write, it will be true.”

It appears to me that speaking about “real love” in films is more than anything else a question of balance – which has to be sought after in every instant anew. Just as in life.

Previous columns in “The Torch”: In the crux: subtitling, Can we sell it in pieces?, Bridging the gap, Introduction

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  1. […] Previous columns in “The Torch”: On real love, In the crux: subtitling, Can we sell it in pieces?, Bridging the gap, Introduction […]

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