Making the once known known again.
About ten years ago I was talking to a friend about her divorce which had just gotten finalized. Hers was a situation in which she wanted to stay married but her husband did not. At the time I was fascinated with the concept of love ending, so I asked my friend a lot of questions about the issue. She graciously answered them all but it was her final statement that hit me hard. She said, “Love is a choice. At the beginning of our relationship I chose to love my husband, and ultimately I had to choose to stop loving my husband.”
My 21-year old self did not fully understand what my friend meant. Being the child of divorced parents, my views of romantic love were slightly skewed already. In fact, her words just created more questions that I needed answers to. How do you choose to love someone? Isn’t love an emotion? Don’t emotions just happen naturally? If we choose to stop loving one person, is it possible to truly love another? I had no answers to any of these questions until I saw the film “Les Parapluies De Cherbourg” (Umbrellas of Cherbourg.) Yes it’s a foreign film. Yes all of the dialogue is sung. Yes I expect you to keep reading this article.
Directed by Jacques Demy, “Les Parapluies De Cherbourg” was a major success upon release. It received many accolades, including the highest prize at the Cannes Film Festival and an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. It was a commercial success as well, becoming one of the most popular films of 1964. At the time the film was revered for it’s jazzy music score and the brilliance of the visual impact.
Here’s a brief synopsis: 17-year-old Genevieve and 20-year-old Guy are in love. They want to get married but Genevieve’s mother, an umbrella shop owner, disapproves of the relationship. Before marriage can be discussed further, Guy gets drafted and has to leave for two years of service. Guy and Genevieve have to choose whether or not they will continue to love each other.
I chose to excavate this film because Demy’s perspective is a unique one. Many movies give us characters who are drawn to each other or can’t help loving each other. Demy takes it further and shows the choice involved in love. He also shows us the consequences (good and bad) of those choices. Watching again recently as someone who has experienced heartbreak since his first viewing, I can say it’s one of the most realistic portrayals of love I have ever seen. Sometimes when we love someone our identity gets so wrapped up in the other person that we can’t imagine life without them. We end up making rash decisions that we can’t take back. Decisions with effects that are irreversible. Demy portrays this reality well.
I want to hear your thoughts. Do you think love is a choice? Have you ever been in a situation where you had to choose to stop loving someone? How much of your identity should be found in loving another? You can watch “Les Parapluies De Cherbourg” in it’s entirety below (click the ‘cc’ below the screen to turn on the subtitles. Give it a few seconds to load.) Please don’t feel like you have to watch it before joining the conversation. Oh and yes it’s still a foreign film. And yes all of the dialogue is still sung. See you next Monday.