Saturday, December 19, 2009

More sentimental than you might believe

After yesterday's post about Love Actually, I had a brief email exchange with Lynn in which she asked which parts of the film caused me to choke up with emotion. She mentioned the touching scene of never-to-be-fulfilled love when Mark (Andrew Lincoln) expresses his feelings for Juliet (Keira Knightley) via handwritten signs as a Christmas carol plays on a boom-box; the beautifully acted scenes when Karen (Emma Thompson) has to cope with her sudden realization in her bedroom and then later confronts her husband, Harry (Alan Rickman); the sight of Sarah (Laura Linney) sitting in her office at night talking to her brother as Karl (Rodrigo Santoro), the man she loves, walks away; and many others.

None of those scenes, however, nor any of the others in the movie that explore the complexities of love are what most move me.

Instead, the bits that most touch me are those in which writer and director Curtis deliberately ignores reality and focuses instead on instants of impossibly perfect love. To me, the most powerfully touching of them is the scene in the restaurant in which Jamie (Colin Firth), in halting and frequently incorrect Portuguese, asks Aurelia (Luciz Moniz) to marry him. The build-up for this moment is perfect: a long and ever-growing parade through the streets of Marseille as rumors emerge and mutate about the purpose of the insane Englishman. The music swells and alerts us that something majestic is happening, that what comes next matters, that what we are about to see is powerful.

Conventional wisdom makes clear that the proposal is too soon and the marriage unlikely to last. Jamie and Aurelia have known each other less than a month, they know nothing significant about one another, they have no common language--nothing about it makes any sense.

Except that they love each other.

In most movies or books, this scene might annoy me. Here, though, it stands as one among many tributes to the power of not only love, but of choosing every now and then, however briefly, to focus solely on love.

Those moments, when Love Actually steps into fantasy and shows us the potentially redemptive power of love and of seeing only love, even if only for an instant, those are the ones that choke me up.


Kyle said...

That choked-up weepy feeling you're experiencing? That's the sensation of weakness entering your body. And only pain can make it leave again. Now go do a hundred push-ups.

Mark said...

You're probably right.


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