A Love Letter to Romance Films7 min readReading Time: 5 minutes
One of the very few things that have stayed constant since the beginning of civilisation is the feeling of romance. While the versions and boundaries of love have evolved through time, it remains the same at its core – a deep feeling of unadulterated connection. What better way to be inspired by romance than watching it come alive on screen? In conjunction with Sinema.SG’s The Inciting Incident’s latest competition round on the topic of romance, here is a love letter to the genre and why it’s stood the test of time.
Hopefully in Love (Or not)
Any film, regardless of genre, is an escape from reality, with the screen acting as a window into an alternate universe. Especially for romance movies, we are given the position of spectating a story unfold from start to finish, with only the highlight reel of the relationship on accelerated display. What’s not to love?
For many, the entire romance genre is a beacon of hope. Regardless of your relationship status, there’s something in each movie for everyone to feel hopeful about. Whether it is finding the partner of your dreams, nurturing a love you have already found for a lifetime or simply to bask in two hours of supposed perfection, very few people seem to mind that the genre is far from reality.
We go into a film, almost always expecting a happy ending, an assurance we don’t get in our own lives. Films like The Holiday, New Years Eve, Crazy Rich Asians and Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gham are classics because we get the happy ending that we crave for – and in extreme grandeur. However, movies like Titanic or The Notebook are considered to be some of the best love movies ever made, even though their endings are far from happy.
Ultimately, whether an ending is happy or not, romance films draw us in and enchant us with its inherent feeling of hopefulness while teaching us some valuable lessons. Whether the lesson is to remember our worth or to appreciate our partner, romance films remind us that life without love or hope is one that is bleak and colourless.
Under the Influence of Oxytocin
Ever felt bad for indulging in a stereotypical romantic comedy? Ever said you were watching a true crime documentary when you were, in fact, watching Crazy, Stupid Love? We have all been there. Rom Coms have a knack of making us feel like we are in love, even when we aren’t. Fret not, this indulgence has a strong scientific reason – the love hormone, oxytocin.
Several studies have shown that watching romance movies significantly impact your body’s neurotransmitters and hormones (you can read one such study here!). Oxytocin is known to be released because we tend to treat the characters in the movie like our own, the same way adrenaline is released when we watch an action or horror film.
Spoiler alert – that warm, fuzzy feeling you feel is the scientific effects of oxytocin. The hormone is behind feelings of love and bonding. Studies even show that oxytocin can intensify social memories, whether positive or negative. This is probably why you cannot get over that sad ending to that one movie or why you cannot stop watching your favourite happy ending and can probably recite lines to both those endings by heart.
The next time your friends make a face at you for watching P.S. I love you for the 64th time, tell them that there is a scientific reason behind your affinity to such movies. Nobody questions science, right?
Love > Discrimination
That’s right, love does not discriminate. In fact, sometimes I wish it did so that I can pick and choose the qualities of my dream partner. Love creeps up on you when you least expect it and engulfs you with its warmth when you need it most. Love does not partialise between gender, age gaps, socioeconomic status, language, sexual orientation or race. When it hits you, there’s no escaping it.
Just like the wide net that love casts, romance movies do not discriminate against the above qualities. In fact, thanks to filmmaking and writing becoming more accessible to people from different walks of life, there are a vast variety of sub-genres under the main romance genre. You are almost certainly likely to find a romance movie of your preferred sub-genre tucked in some corner of the film universe.
Forbidden love, LGBTQ themes, wide age gaps, intercultural and racial love or just conventional textbook romance are some of the films that are commonly made and cater to all. A simple Google search will present you with thousands of hits on your preferred romance genre.
Maid in Manhattan and Brokeback Mountain are some of the most iconic romance films ever made and they both tackle offbeat themes that might resonate strongly with some more than others. A common movie-goer psychology is to desperately grab on to similarities presented on the big screen. This comes from our innate need to belong to a larger purpose. Cinema, in general, has come a long way in ensuring there is something for everyone.
Where ART thou, My Love?
It takes a village to raise a child but it takes hundreds of subject matter experts to make one film that runs a mere two hours. While all films require an army of technical experts, a successful romance movie takes a troupe of artistes to carefully orchestrate. These artistes include writers, cinematographers, musicians and actors.
Music and Lyrics, La La Land, When a Star is Born and Mamma Mia! are examples of movies that have become icons in the romance genre, owing largely to its award-winning music. Music is arguably one of the most important aspects of a romance film as it possesses the unparalleled ability to set a tone and invoke the desired emotions within the audience. Who can forget the soft hum of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On while Jack and Rose are perched on the edge of the cruise and caressed by sea breeze?
Similarly, writing plays a paramount role in the production of a good romance film. Juno is the gold-standard of romance writing, with Diablo Cody bagging almost every major award for Best Original Screenplay, including the Academy Awards, BAFTA and the Writers Guild of America Awards in 2008. It is her delightfully idiosyncratic script that broke this indie movie into the mainstream romance genre.
What a stunt director is to an action movie is what writers and musicians are to romance movies. The genre permits these artistes to fly their creative freak flag high, often producing trailblazing results that inspire the next generation of love birds to reinvent what they know and love to be romance.
These four reasons are a large umbrella of reasons why I – unapologetically – love the romance genre. I’m known as the office romance writer and I am incredibly happy to wear that crown because I love, love.
With this instalment of The Inciting Incident, Sinema.SG wants to lure out the romantic in you by urging you to pen down your best romance screenplay. Try tackling this one with more heart than brain.