Tuesday, October 07, 2014

and in keeping with a theme, Richard Brody on the crisis of the contemporary cinematic romance being why people stay together, not why they came together to start with

... The nurse’s popular wisdom about the primacy of attraction is as true now as it was then, with one main difference: for the nurse, the inevitable result was marriage and the effort to build a lasting relationship on the basis of that attraction. In our time, the problem isn’t finding a reason to act on attraction (though Eric Rohmer has given us plenty of reasons not to), it’s whether there’s a point to having a relationship afterwards—it isn’t getting together but staying together. [emphasis added] We’re forthright enough about desire to distinguish it from the many other things that life is made of; it’s necessary but not sufficient. The twist of “Knocked Up” is that desire quickly yields to practicalities; the terrible pathos of “Funny People” is that fierce mutual desire turns out not to be enough. The title of “The Royal Tenenbaums” could be (with apologies to Hal Hartley) “Surviving Desire.” What makes modern romance complicated is that our expectations are surprisingly high—they take in desire and four-syllable words, a meeting of the minds as well as an erotic charge.

It might be a bitter paradox that among Christians in America evangelicals want to figure out how to keep that spark alive when a few centuries of Christian ethical tradition have held that the spark, however pleasant it might be while it's there, has never been and shouldn't be considered sufficient grounds for entering into a marriage in the first place.  In earlier periods of cinema there were more external obstacles to a couple getting together but since we've passed a bicentennial for a Jane Austen novel as of last year, it may be worth noting that many of the most challenging obstacles to a relationship coming together (or lasting) are internal conflicts.  Darcy and Bennett don't come together until they have recognized and overcome their own character flaws, never mind how astutely they may have observed character flaws in each other.  John Donne once said in one of his sermons that some of the ancient church fathers noted that man named all the animals but did not name himself and that this might be a sign that however much we may come to learn about the world our very selves may always be mysterious.

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