Some films that have touched me
Seventh Heaven (1927), directed by Frank Borzage, is one of the great romantic silent movies. Diane (Janet Gaynor), a desperate, young woman who lives on the streets, is about to commit suicide. She is prevented from doing so by Chico (Charles Farrell) and they become lovers. World War intervenes, he becomes a soldier in the French army, but before his departure he promises that each day at 11am he will visit her. Because of the intense, emotional bond between them, the feeling of their relationship is telepathically renewed at the appointed hour. Then one day she senses that something terrible has happened to him. She waits and longs for his return. He survives the war but returns blind. The film ends with the lovers embracing under a mysterious light that shines upon them from above.
While making this film Janet Gayner was also playing the leading role in F. W. Murnau’s Sunrise. She worked with Murnau during the day and with Borzage at night. Sunrise is a film where love and death, dark and light are intertwined, whereas in Seventh Heaven the love between the two leading characters enters a mystical dimension that transcends both their place on earth and death.
City Lights (1931) tells a simple story of a tramp (played by Charlie Chaplin) and his relationship with a blind flower girl (Virginia Cherrill). The tramp becomes friends with an eccentric millionaire (Harry Myers) who gives him money when he is drunk. However, the man only recognises the tramp when he is inebriated. To impress the poverty stricken flower girl, the tramp uses the millionaire’s wealth to woo her. Nearly eighty years after it was first released, City Lights is considered to be a classic and its ending one of the best on film. Stanley Kubrick and Andrei Tarkovsky placed it in their top-ten films. Federico Fellini and Woody Allen praised it. What moved me when I first saw it was the altruism in a poor man’s effort to help another struggling to survive – something so archetypal, true and evocative, and also the masterful simplicity of its presentation.
Brief Encounter (1945). Ships pass in the night, and although many years may have gone by, a memory of a glance, a caress, a kiss, a tear, leads me to Brief Encounter, a poignant film starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard and based on Still Life (1936), Noel Coward’s one-act play. The film remains one of the finest romances of the British film industry. Though simple, the plot belies the complexities of the emotions involved. Laura Jesson (Johnson) meets with a stranger (Trevor Howard) at a railway station and falls in love. Both are in early middle age, married with children. The film reflects the austerity and morality of post-war England.
Dr Zhivago (1965). I wept when I first viewed this film, partly for what it portrayed, but more in that I was able to relate directly to its central theme of love and loss through my own experience. Had I seen the film some months earlier it might have made a quite a different impression on me. In all probability I would have dismissed it for its romance and the slant placed on Boris Pasternak’s book by Robert Bolt’s screenplay version. Having viewed it on several occasions over the years with its striking cinema photography I wonder sometimes if I am observing the weeping youth who sat watching it, or David Lean’s direction of Omar Shariff and Julie Christie on the silver screen…. Nonetheless, it remains true, and I would place it among the top ten romantic films of the 20th century.
Harold and Maude (1971). In the opening verse of his lyrical song Is There Anyone Out There? Ray Charles wrote,
“Can you tell me, is there anyone out there
Can you hear me, calling you
If you hear, will you listen
Is that too much to ask you to do
I’ve been searching for someone to care
Ooh Lord is there anyone out there …”
This is very applicable to Harold and Maude, the story of a young man (Bud Cort) who feels that no one really understands him or will listen to what he has to say, certainly not his wealthy mother (played by Vivian Pickles). This low budget film that became a cult classic explores the searching confusion of youth. After efforts by his mother to marry him off, Harold announces one day that he will after all get married. The woman he loves is the remarkable Maude (Ruth Gordon), who is one week from her eightieth birthday. She listens to him; she understands. This is a charming heart felt movie and deals with issues that are too profound to be taken seriously. The sound track is by Cat Stevens (now known as Yusuf Islam) singing at his best and includes such songs as On The Road To Find Out, Miles From Nowhere, I Wish, I Wish, and Where Do The Children Play?
A Short Film About Love, Krótki film o milosci (1988). This is an extended film version of the sixth episode of Kkrzysztof Kieslowski’s ten-part drama entitled The Decalogue. Each of the episodes is based on the Ten Commandments. A Short Film About Love is based on the sixth: Thou shalt not commit adultery. The film is set in Warsaw and explores the themes of voyeurism, obsession, fate and love through observing the relationship between a young man, Tomek (Olaf Lubaszenko), and an older woman, Magda (Gra yna Szapo Owska). At the suggestion of Gra yna Sapo Owska, the original ending of this film was changed from solitary bleakness to something more befitting a fairytale.
The Road Home (1999) portrays an uncomplicated story of two young people (played by Zhang Ziyi and Zheng Hao) falling in love in a mountainous region of rural Northern China during the 1958 Anti-Rightist movement. Luo Yusheng (Sun Hong-Lei) the grown son of the couple, who returns for the funeral of his father, the village teacher, relates the tale in flashback. Although times have changed, his elderly mother insists that traditional burial customs must be observed, and that men should carry the deceased along a mountain road, to his burial place. Zhang Yimou the director stated, that this simple film was a tribute to the work of the Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami. A feature that is shared by several well-crafted modern Chinese and Iranian films is the presentation of a simple theme, cultivating it with care. The result in The Road Home is a beautiful, colourful, touching film.
See also Great(?)Romantic Films