grey world

18 September 2009 at 4:50 pm 1 comment

I grew up thinking in black and white — all line art with defined lines and spaces. Everything was clear and straight forward, although it lacked definition and clarity.

my world in black & white: distorted and slightly scary.

my world in black & white: distorted and slightly scary.

The older I get, the more I realize this isn’t so, and dealing with people becomes thousands of times more complicated than a piece of line art — rather, it’s a photograph, filled with thousands of tones of grey that only illuminates things more brilliantly.

my world in grey: infinitely more beautiful & complicated.

my world in grey: infinitely more beautiful & complicated.

One of the things I thought was solid and unmoving was marriage. Either you were happily in love and married, or you were alone and unmarried. Black and white. Simple. Any couples I met were categorized in my brain as not two people, but as one unit.

But couples, even married ones, are not solid units.

This was brought forcibly to my attention as I watched  500 Days of Summer and The Time Traveler’s Wife recently at the theater. (They were offering $1.00 entrance fees! How could I resist?)

In “500 Days of Summer” Tom Hansen, romantic would-be architect turned greeting card writer falls for Summer Finn, love-realist and wanderer currently working as an office assistant.  They hit it off, and despite Summer’s claims that she wants no boyfriends or “serious entanglements”, she encourages a relationship that leaves Tom wanting more and more of what she cannot give.

Interestingly enough, although this was a film about couples, it made great efforts to show everyone in the film as a single unit. Tom’s friend, Paul, who has a longtime girlfriend is shown alone, she never enters the film’s reality.  All the office workers are never seen with their partners, and even Summer’s eventual fiance is only seen as ring on her finger, never as an actual person.

I wondered at this treatment, but it became clear that the movie was not about how to be a couple, but rather how to be an optomistic, love-filled person, even if that means that you don’t become part of a couple for a long time.

The end is bittersweet, but hopeful, and if you learn anything it is that love exists, just not always where you expect to find it. The evolution from interest, to like, to love, to marriage is a stormy and rocky road where most everyone gets a scrape or two, but that doesn’t mean the view from the top isn’t magnificent.

In “The Time Traveler’s Wife”  the story of one couple’s marital relationship forms the core of the movie. Henry DeTamble is a seemingly jobless time traveler, while Clare Abshire is an insightful artist out of place in a republican family where the father spends his time hunting defenseless creatures in the forest behind their mansion. Long before Henry has actually met Clare, she has gotten to know and love him through his jumps back in time to her childhood and teenage years, when she retreated to the forest to get away.

His understanding and companionship through her tumultuous growing years leads her to love him, and her exuberance  and infatuation with his time traveling leads him to love her,  so that we are left wondering if either of them ever really had a choice in their fated relationship.

“Good fiction makes the normal seem bizarre, and the bizarre seem normal.” And in this film, the bizarre is normal. Although his problem is time traveling, it could just as easily be an addiction, a job, or a personality trait, because it gets in the way of their happy, solid life. He has no control over it, but it often means that through no fault of his own he is not there when she needs or wants him to be. The funny thing is that Clare knew about this trait of his from the moment she met him. It was originally what brought them together, and eventually it becomes the thing that will perhaps tear them apart.

The theme of waiting is constant throughout this film as well. She waits for the dates he will appear, she is always waiting for him to come back and in the end he disappears as he says, “I don’t want you to spend the rest of your life waiting.”

At their core, both films are asking what love is. What does it mean to love, and what does it mean to attach yourself to someone else, to let them have control over a part of your life?

The thing is, neither one offers a decisive answer — at least not a black and white one, but perhaps they have opened the spectrum to a little more grey.

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Entry filed under: word of the week. Tags: , , , , , , .

back & forth car limbo

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. SongForTheAsking  |  18 September 2009 at 10:52 pm

    Excellent points all around.

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