Here at The Image Loft I like to take every opportunity I can to expand on the holiday movies in order to spare the usual seasoned classics from being tiredly wheeled out time and time again. I offered some alternative spooks for Halloween and festive treats at Christmas. Yet it is perhaps Valentines Day that this little segment is most applicable for. After all since its invention the cinema has firmly been at the route of many a budding romance (myself included.)
What, if not the cinema, inspires passions so deep inside us we want them for our own? Since it was first captured by Edison in 1896's The Kiss, love has been changed by cinema. Molded by light, glamor and beauty it is been transported across entire histories, countries and worlds and we are fueled by the spark it ignites. No longer does it imitate reality, it is reality that imitates the cinema, to a monumental effect.
So amongst the falsities, the hopes and the tragic here are six wonderful alternative films that explore the true, deeper meanings of love.
1. Sunrise: A Song for Two Humans - 1927, F.W. Murnau
One of cinemas earliest and most classic love stories, Sunrise tells the tale of a couple who have lost their way, but through the very darkest and lowest moments find the spark that brought them together. Sunrise may look a little croaky to some with its silent era over acting and bold make up, but stick with it and this is one of the most earnest and triumphant of films. Murnau's city awakens as the lovers do, basking in light and activity, it becomes an explosive urban poem - a fever dream of love that one cannot help but be completely and utterly won over by.
2. Brief Encounter - 1945, David Lean
Perhaps putting the most famous cinematic infidelity on a Valentines Day films seems a little flawed, but I've written before on the real love that lies at the heart of Brief Encounter, one that anyone in a lasting relationship will attest to. At the heartbreaking end to middle class housewife Laura's unconsummated affair with Dr Alec Harvey she returns to her life and to her unremarkable husband, completely broken. Yet it is her unremarkable husband who saves her by giving her the most remarkable of gestures - a simple thank you for coming home.
3. Summer Interlude - 1951, Ingmar Bergman
Although a rather cynical film, it comes from a very real place. Bergman's story of a summer romance between Marie a young dancer and student Henrik on the Swedish Archipelago is based on an intense experience the director had at 18 while vacationing with his family. The girl he was involved with would later contract polio. Therefore the bitterness that presides over the careless lovers, like a singular dark cloud against a sun soaked sky, feels much like the pain from an open wound. It is a film that exposes us of the wonders love can open us up to, but also the damage it can cause. Yet the final message is profound, Bergman urges us not to make the same mistake he and his characters did, he reminds us the pain is a necessary and worthy risk to take.
4. Paris, Texas - 1984, Wim Wenders
Wim Wenders reminds us that love is not a closed linked between two people, but an open circle that spreads itself across families, and that goes for the negatives too. A worn, tragic call to love and sacrifice for the good of a child and his mother is at the heart of this sultry road movie. Harry Dean Stanton gives one of the most weathered and romantic performances of all time as a man who now recognizes everything that went wrong and what needs to be done to fix it. This is an intimate tale of the damage a fractured love can cause spread across a grand Western odyssey, and for that reason it makes this list; it encapsulates the momentum and bravery of someone taking the first steps forward to change.
5. In The Mood for Love - 2000, Kar Wai Wong
This beautiful, vintage romance is a film made of candle lit delicacy. Love unsoiled by love. Two neighbours, who bond over their partners infidelity gradually develop a captured passion for each other. Every shot, movement and hair is composed to such a measured perfection. In the Mood for Love reignites the intensity of chaste, toying with us, excites us and eventually burns through us. In a sexually loose world (both societal and cinematically) it is both refreshing and disarming to remind us that the build up to a kiss, to a touch can be just as sensual as the touch itself. When it's over, we have to turn to any hole we can find, whisper our emotions and then cover it up.
6. Blue Valentine - 2010, Derek Cianfrance
Although heart-throb Ryan Gosling has already starred in one of the most popular, and undoubtedly over-watched romance films of all time. One that I suspect a thousand and more unwilling partners will be subjected to by their significant other on February 14th. But if you're tired of The Notebooks rather manipulative and overblown melodrama, then I recommend Derek Cianfrance's unflinching look at the disintegration of a marriage. Doesn't sound too romantic? Well whilst it is true the films dual structure flicking between past and present does come down on the bleak side, the relationship between Gosling's free spirit and Williams committed medical student will undoubtedly strike a chord with anyone who's been in love. Yet it preaches something much more important to everyone, the antidote to many a cinematic false promise; in a relationship there is no easy fix, love doesn't conquer all, it needs support, understanding and communication.
So there you have a small handful of films that will give you a look at every side of love, they aren't something to measure yourselves by, instead let them guide you to one of the most universal and human experiences of all.
To Cinema, With love.
Or should that be...
To Love, from Cinema?