Monday, June 3, 2013
Personal Countdown of Best Love Stories on Film – Part I of IV
If you’re partial to romance, then you probably enjoy a good love story on film. I do; in fact, I think the suspension of disbelief comes easier on film than in print. And the various lists of favorites provided on IMDb are a good way to select movies to take a chance on watching. Plus the lists can be interesting in their own right because of what they say about their authors. Either way, the lists are a helpful service, and for that reason, I thought I’d volunteer a list of my own. So for the next several posts, I’ll do a countdown on a personal top ten.
Having established our basis, I’m going to veer from it briefly to discuss a film that isn’t on the list. It doesn’t fit on the list because, although this is a touching story of love’s dynamics, it’s not a conventional romance. The Girl with the Pearl Earring (2003) is a kind of inverse romance: a story of protagonists who sublimate their mutual attraction for the sake of the artistic ideal they both feel drawn to. I must admit, it took a third viewing to comprehend fully just what the filmmaker was striving for in this story. For me, this film was unexplored territory, and it offers a unique treatise on the forms love can take and the sacrifices it is capable of making. The acting and production values are superb. And the historic setting, the sense of being immersed in 17th century Dutch culture, is top-notch. You won’t want to miss this poignant story of love sacrificed for a chance to produce artistic beauty beyond anything words can express.
Okay, so back to the list. But again, I’m going to stray from convention by listing two films in the number nine spot. No, I just couldn’t decide which to choose and feel there’s value added in describing them both. Plus, there’s no ambiguity in my mind about what title follows them in the number ten spot.
(#10) Electric Dreams (1984). This is an unusual love story. It features a love triangle between a boy, a girl, and a computer. The drama in this one is not particularly high, and the acting is below mid-rate, but what nudges this film into the “special” category is the music. It’s original, composed by Giorgio Moroder, plus others, with some of the songs performed by Culture Club. But it’s perfect for this film, and what the director has done is structure the film as drama plus side scenes that are really music videos. So in a way, the movie is a kind of musical. Whatever it is, it works to produce a great entertainment experience. The music videos are good or better on their own merits, and they nicely complement the love story and the progression of the lead characters’ emotions. This one is a unique viewing experience, a true change of pace love story.
(#9) Jane Eyre (1996). There are many film versions of this story, and most of them fail spectacularly on the story’s most challenging point. Why would a nineteenth century English landed gentleman fall for the unattractive governess of his young ward? It’s a difficult emotional transaction to put across credibly, and only William Hurt manages to do it in masterly fashion in a version that also stars Charlotte Gainsbourg. She is perfectly cast in the way she combines physical plainness with a spunky intellect and personality, a love of what life has to offer despite her underprivileged upbringing.
(#9) Mansfield Park (1999). Francis O’Connor plays Fanny Price in this ultra-loose adaptation of the Jane Austen novel. Production values are fine, but the acting here is middling at best. But I keep coming back to this one because of how well O’Connor portrays a disadvantaged nineteen century girl’s travails from holding onto a love that’s essentially unattainable. It’s an unspoken, hopeless commitment that nearly breaks her, and the manner of her patient triumph is downright thrilling after all the story has put us through.