The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Motifs in cinema 2013: Love and marriage

with 22 comments


“And so they lived happily ever after”.


They don’t make that kind of movies anymore, do they? If want to take your loved one to a movie date, you’re probably better off staying away from any movie that has to do with love, relationships or marriage. Because they’ll probably leave you questioning if becoming a couple is such a good idea in the first place

Judging from what came out in 2013 this view on love isn’t about to change anytime soon. You have to look hard to find a film that still believes in the “one true love” that will last a lifetime. The united theme of most movies about love and marriage these days is that depicture how it breaks down one way or another. The curve of love seems to be as inevitable as the fact that entropy increases over time. Falling in love puts the world into a neat and simple order. But as we progress through time, learning more about ourselves and about the world, children getting into the picture, it starts to get more complicated. Either we give up about the relationship or we give up about ourselves. Regardless which way we go, there’s a price to pay. Pain, confusion and chaos are looming over us.

gatsbyflowersA painful wake-up
In 2013 we were introduced to a couple of movie characters who still nourish a romantic view on love, interestingly enough both men. Gatsby in The Great Gatsby has a firm belief that he’s going to win back Daisy with a shower of flowers and Ellis in Mud refuses to realize that neither he, nor Mud, have met their soul mates. They have to travel a long and painful road before they see things as they are: that they didn’t have a relationship in the first place.

Other movie couples are slightly better off, such as Liberace and his young lover in Behind the Candelabra and the female couple in Blue is the Warmest Colour. While those relationships don’t end well, at least they have a few happy years to enjoy before they start their descent.

Unchallenged on the position as “darkest depicturing of a relationship” was The Broken Circle Breakdown. I cried myself through this film, and what made me saddest wasn’t the cancer disease that the daughter of the couple was fighting. It was what the disease made to them, how it tore them apart at a time in their lives when they needed each other more than ever. It reminded a little of Blue Valentine, but more riveting thanks to the bluegrass score accompanying them as they go deeper and deeper, entering circle after circle in their inferno.
Brighter movies
Wasn’t there any movie at all that painted love in brighter colours? Well, I had to think hard about it but I came up with a few. One is About Time, where admittedly the father-son relationship is more important than the romance. But there is a romantic part as well and being a Richard Curtis movie, it doesn’t let you down.

Then there was Don Jon, not exactly romantic at first sight, being about a pretty miserable, appalling porn addict. But it gets better and it ends up being one of the more optimistic love movies from 2013.There is one that beats it though: Warm Bodies, which once for all proves that zombies can be just as romantic as vampires. How little did we know!

Two great movies about love and marriage that came out in 2013 remain. One of them is Her, but I’m not going to talk about it further in this post. Not because it doesn’t deserve a mentioning; it deals with the topic in a very interesting way and I fell in love with the movie on spot. But I watched it only the other day and so did many other people outside of the US market. In my book Her isn’t a 2013 movie. It’s one that I’ll save for next year’s motif post.

warm-bodiesBefore Midnight
The other movie is, of course, Before Midnight, THE movie about love and marriage of the year, hands down. What can I say that hasn’t been said before? I just feel privileged to be able to follow the ups and downs in Jessie’s and Celine’s relationship, reconnecting with them every nine years. If the conversation in the first movie was mostly flirty, it hit a deeper level in the second as they opened up about their current life situation and what had become of the dreams of their youth. But it’s in this third movie that it starts to get real. Not everyone who watched it appreciated this; I’ve seen some who felt genuinely sad to see them fighting the way they did, longing back for the earlier, more romantic days. I see it differently.  Love is about so much more than just plain romance. Romance serves as a starting point, but it can only hold your attention that long. It’s what happens over all those following years when the novelty has worn off that truly matters. Or as they put it so beautiful in The Deep Blue Sea, which I’ve already quoted in a previous post, but is so good that it deserves to be put out there again:

A lot of rubbish is talked about love. Do you know what real love is? It’s wiping someone’s arse or changing their sheets when they’ve wetted themselves – and then let them keep their dignity so you can both go on.”

I imagine that Jessie and Celine could be this for each other in the future. I hope we’ll be able to follow them to that point. But I don’t think we’ll ever leave the theatre after watching a Before-movie in the safe knowledge that they’ll live happily ever after. Those days are irrevocably over.

About Motifs in Cinema
This post is a part in a yearly event called “Motifs in Cinema”, organized by Andrew Kendall at Encore’s World of Film & TV.

Here’s how Andrew has described the idea:

Motifs in Cinema is a discourse across some film blogs, assessing the way in which various thematic elements have been used in the 2013 cinematic landscape. How does a common theme vary in use from a comedy to a drama? Are filmmakers working from a similar canvas when they assess the issue of death or the dynamics of revenge? Like most things, a film begins with an idea – Motifs in Cinema assesses how various themes emanating from a single idea change when utilised by varying artists.”

Don’t miss out the other posts in this blogathon, which includes thirteen different themes. All the posts are collected in a list over at Andrew’s place.


22 Responses

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  1. Really great piece Jessica. Before Midnight is without a doubt the definitive love and marriage movie of the year for me. I loved how it painted a realistic picture of love. It wasn’t overly sentimental, it felt like a genuine relationship.

    Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop

    February 28, 2014 at 11:37 am

  2. “It was what the disease made to them, how it tore them apart at a time in their lives when they needed each other more than ever.” I completely agree with this point regrading The Broken Circle Breakdown. It is one of the aspects of the film that has still stuck with me months after seeing the film.

    Courtney Small

    February 28, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    • It’s a movie that stays with me too and I managed to persuade my local film club to screen it this spring. I though it was a gem that deserved a wider audience than I think it got at the release.


      June 10, 2014 at 9:03 pm

  3. I waited until I was finished with my piece to read this and it’s interesting (and a bit unfortunate) how we seem to come to the same conclusion about romantic love and friendship – no indication of a “perfect” image of it in sight on screen..But when you think of that excellent quotation from THE DEEP BLUE SEA the perspective it forces you to consider is a great one, maybe it’s fine there’s no “ideal” of love on screen because the sad, but real, one isn’t that terrible.


    March 1, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    • I think there’s a reason why we so rarely see this perspective in movies: it’s harder to market to a vide audience. You sell a dream to people, not reality. But it cetainly makes for good stories to tell.


      June 10, 2014 at 9:05 pm

  4. Superb post, Jessica. A fantastic read. Hope you’re having a great vacation.


    March 2, 2014 at 12:26 am

  5. This was a really great read!


    March 2, 2014 at 4:22 am

  6. They still make those “boy meets girl, falls in love, they fight a bit and but in the end they live happily ever after” movies. They’re just not the movies that we watch. I’d much rather see a movie with some intelligent dialogue than one of those formulaic movies. So, I simply end up watching more of those.


    March 2, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    • Absolutely. The boy-meet-girl”-movies are really hard to make in an interesting way. What is there to say that hasn’t already been said a hundret tmes before?


      June 10, 2014 at 9:06 pm

  7. Warm Bodies and About Time were both so sweet. I think we need more of those kinds of films — because it’s true, taking someone to a date to see a film about romance is a dangerous idea these days.


    March 3, 2014 at 10:58 am

    • They were sweet – and that’s nice to get as well, once in a while.


      June 10, 2014 at 9:07 pm

  8. Wifey and I sat down and watched all three “Before” movies a few weeks ago. They really are terrific at displaying the varied stages of love and life, aren’t they. Great movies. Should be more of them being made.

    The Hot Rod

    March 22, 2014 at 5:01 am

  9. We miss you Jessica. Even if you are focused on something else, I’d love to read what you are thinking about now.


    May 13, 2014 at 5:50 pm

  10. Long time no see, I hope you didn’t run into trouble overseas.

    food science guru

    June 3, 2014 at 10:30 am

    • Not at all. I’m here! Just been… away. I guess. Post is upcoming!


      June 10, 2014 at 8:57 pm

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