Sunday, 7 May 2017

Which are right: post truth films or 1930s films about true romance?

We often perceive films produced pre-1960s as fantasies, slushy, sentimental or unreal and post-1960s films as gritty and realistic. The truth is that there was often far more realism in stories of the past because they were moral. For example:

An Affair to Remember (1957) is a remake of Love Affair (1939) (this film is accessible on the link). Both have exactly the same ‘stage’ dialogue. Famously, An Affair to Remember is the ‘most romantic film ever made’, starring Deborah Kerr and suave but gentle playboy, Cary Grant. It is hard not to be moved to tears at the end, particularly if, like me, you have had a life-limiting chronic illness, since the story examines how disability and vulnerability test true love.

The physically attractive protagonists, both with artistic and creative skills but living on modest incomes (because art rarely makes much money) are separately engaged to pleasant, wealthy non-creative people consciously seen as their ‘meal tickets’. They fall passionately in love on a trans-Atlantic liner going to New York and agree to wait six months to meet again, on the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building. This period will enable them to break with their rich partners without damaging them and test their feelings for each other. They also need to see whether they can make a viable living as self-supporting people. Talented, he becomes an artist. They follow their hearts, but she falls under a car rushing to the Empire State and ends up in a wheelchair, failing to fulfil the appointment. Helped by a padre, she uses her talents teaching deprived children music from her wheelchair.

At this point, one is asked to consider the question of whether one can condemn a marital partner to being a carer. Can she can exploit his pity for her, if he finds out? Does she want to burden someone hard pressed to make a living on his own, while caring for her, even if he loves her? A devout Catholic, she decides not to tell him, but he finds out and true love triumphs, ending with the words If you can paint, I can learn to walk again highlighting the impetus of having the will to recover through the quality of life supplied by a helper. One senses that through true love, the handsome playboy has recovered himself and his moral code learned as an altar boy. Sadly, through rampant materialism today, many have never learned values, in the first place.

Films used to have a moral, often religious message which makes for great storytelling. The message here is “True love is priceless: it is stronger than serious disability, hard work and modest incomes because love, art and creativity (and being a viable economic entity even in disability, if possible) is what life is really all about”.

My fear is that today people are not moved by moral truth. Post-truth, this pair could not be allowed to live on the income of a paralysed music teacher and a struggling artist. They would both have to be successful high earners and find true love. In this sense, the films of the romantic past with moral content, are more truthful than 'realistic' but materialistic films, today.

Unless you are prepared to pay a price (even a lifetime of hard graft), the chance of finding a depth of love, which is the only one that overcomes serious disability, is small. The corrupt modern fantasy often fuelled by a partial examination of the lives of lucky celebrities is that you, like them, can expect to ‘have it all’ : lots of money, success, wealth, happiness, enduring good looks, fame, health, large houses, touring the world (including through exploiting someone else). Woe betide a partner if they break their side of the (economic) bargain and lapse into disability and illness. In fact, about 50% of partners divorce their disabled and chronically ill partners, today. It is not a widely known fact that significant numbers (more men than women) leave their spouses and partners when they become terminally ill.

The Bible teaches that we live in a moral universe, in which we are put to work using our abilities, gifts and talents (if we are fit enough) and in which we are called to love, in the holiest sense of the word. Stories that reflect this still ring true. In addition, millions of people today are ending up in loneliness and in financial ruin either because they lack core values and/or because they need a soulmate with core values - and cannot find one.

No comments:

Post a Comment