Lost in Modern Love
Dear Reader,

Welcome to my fifth piece of writing. Or so I guess because I am bad with numbers. This blog is very personal to me and therefore if you are here just for skimming through it or as a favour, don’t proceed! I usually would love for as many people to read what I write and  like to ensure that it reaches out to a maximum number, but this isn’t that kind of a blog. In fact I’d secretly like to hope for as less a number of people to read this. Like a little girl who holds on dearly to her play toys, I hold on very dearly to the content that I speak about in this blog. More specifically the five films that I am going to be focusing on. Why do these films mean more than just 24 FPS to me?

I just need to quote one dialogue the female lead says, to let you know why this film will remain one of my top favourites - Too many guys think I'm a concept, or I complete them, or I'm gonna make them alive. But I'm just a fucked-up girl who's lookin' for my own peace of mind; don't assign me yours. In a world that fantasizes the manic pixie dream girl trope, I needed a Clementine to prove me wrong. A woman who is sweet and kind but also flawed and bitter with an arc and individuality of her own. If you thought love was one emotion, wait till you watch this film and have your notions shattered as the filmmaker takes you through a complex journey. A journey of two people trying to forget their love, unable to put up with the pain of drifting apart from each other. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind isn’t a simple film. It is evidently complex with deep subtext. Although the hesitance to bare pain and thus finding an easier path out resulting in psychological trauma is what the film might look like it is about, it’s a lot more. Just when you think you’ve kind of figured out Joel and Clementine, you are given a shot of Joel in a room full of sand, it starts raining inside the living room drenching Clementine, there are cars falling from the skies, they are sleeping by the sea on snow and so on. Things keep happening throughout the film. Clementine’s hair keeps changing colors based on her mood, it becomes difficult to distinguish between reality and distortion, there is a parallel love story happening between the assistants played by Mark Ruffalo and Kirsten Dunst. Absurd? Most definitely! However, it is this absurdity that makes this film all the more special. The films plays with light, transitions, visual effects, editing, colour and production design in ways that will surprise you. It uses sound and visuals to explain intricate factors like human psychology and emotions. It tells you how you don’t have to understand or have everything figured out, just like the film. As complex as its name, this film  gives you a new hope every time you watch it again and visually depicts how beautiful chaos is. 

500 Days of Summer (2009)

What do you call it when a Boy meets a girl and falls in love? Well, most definitely not a love story! That’s the sheer brilliance of a film like 500 days of summer.  The film is a personification of romance as good, bad, ugly, faulty, imperfect and yet perfect through two characters by the name of Summer and Tom. I wouldn’t be wrong to say that never have I ever enjoyed heartbreak as much as I have in this film. This film takes a complex emotion and breaks it down into simple moods. Imagine someone untangling your earphone cables for you? That simple. If colour studies has fascinated you, then studying the use of colours to depict various moods of love in this film would definitely be your icing on the cake. The colors of the interiors, props, supporting cast and everything else depends on the phase in their relationship and observes a gradual shift in its tone from cold to warm as the distance grows apart. If you think scene aesthetics and colours are paid heed to in most movies today, then did you notice how Summer wears brights colours and blues to compliment her chirpy  personality and Tom wears only earthy browns and beiges to suit his simple, honest life? If you did, then did you also notice how these colours respectively match Zooey Deschanel’s blue eyes and Joseph’s brown eyes? 500 days of Summer will have you so involved in the story that it’s colours and aesthetics tend to become a part of the story without standing out separately and yet providing to be as relevant. A story of heartbreak, coping up and our tendency to glorify our lovers not being able to put up with the fact that goodbyes are a part of the cycle. After watching the film, if you don’t go back to listen to the Smiths or read up about who Sid and Nancy are or just slyly hum in your lift To die by your side is such a heavenly way to die, you haven’t really watched the film!

Her (2013)

Talking about colour studies and aesthetics, some films associate themselves to one colour making it their core theme. For instance, thinking of the colour red instantly takes me back to one film that redefined love for me. It is a film that talks about Theodore’s love for his operating system Samantha. Yes, I am speaking about her which is set in a futuristic world where technological advancements are at its peak and human interaction the best defined by the term detachment. Yet the film feels very real. Like its happening around us right now. Even then, this film isn’t as much about love itself as it is about desolation.  How can a film that shouts Red which is the most sensuous colour in the pallete, speak about an emotion like melancholy or loneliness? Her does that and more. This film also talks about the impact that one failed relationship can have in every other relationship in our life. How disengaging ourselves is the best alternative we find to cope with loss and how we try to bridge that gap using technology.The director Spike Jonez keeps throwing harsh truths at you throughout the film and yet makes you feel warm and happy about the reality we all choose to live in and that to me is stunning. I can’t think about two other actors than Joaquin Phoenix to have played Theodore and Scarlett Johansson to have voiced for Samantha. Some characters connect with you on a level deeper than just the surface. Like Theodore. He is faulty, flawed and to an extent selfish too. Yet we cannot stop empathising with him as somewhere we see ourselves in him. If there’s something I’d like to take back from this film then it'd be the fact that a lot of this masking is temporary and the pain that comes from within us can only best be cured by our desire to overcome it because We're only here briefly and while I'm here I want to allow myself joy.

Call Me By Your Name (2017)

If I were to ever to rephrase Love is Love then I’d call it Call me by your name. A film that made me feel emotions deep inside beyond shape and form. This is one of the few films that made me wanna act upon how I feel. It made me wanna read more books, transcribe music, swim in the river, go out at nights and most importantly fall in love. In short, everything that the protagonist was doing. Call me by your name not only changes your perception about coming of age films but also portrays love in its purest, most unbiased form by following the two lovers at the moment. I do not know how a movie can be shot in such a simple and yet aesthetically brilliant manner breaking every notion you had about love, teenage confusion or just the colour green. Colour green I say because it is used in the film to portray a mood unlike any other film has used green before. It doesn’t glorify love or passion but depicts it in a manner so raw and beautiful that it’ll wanna make you fall in love with falling in love. It would be a crime to not mention how well Sufjan Stevens helped elevate this mood through his background score and sound tracks. To an extent where every time I listen to Carrie & Lowell, my mind automatically starts playing scenes from the film (p.s - to those who didn’t know about this album, you can thank me later). This film made me realise that a feeling as universal as love isn’t about who or what or when. It’s always about How. How the same word despite being defined differently by different people would still mean the same.  How you can connect with a completely different person through just one emotion and How you choose to tell your loved one Call Me By Your Name And I’ll Call You By Mine.

Lost in Translation (2003)

Lost In Translation holds a special place in my heart and thus (clearly) provided to be the inspiration  behind this blog. The film doesn’t need fancy title introductions or philosophical love quotes. Those who know the film, know how much of a delight it is in itself. Lost in Translation is a story about love and friendship. Bob - an actor going through midlife crisis and Charlotte a newly wed trying to figure out individuality and the institution of marriage, happen to stay at the same hotel in Tokyo. A city foreign to the both of them. The story revolves around the friendship they develop amongst the unfamiliarity and the solace they find in each other amidst the chaos. The film surely did plaster a smile on my face but I couldn't help but fall in love with it all over again at two other instances that go beyond the film. One, the connection it holds to a dear friend and I who have forever planned to organise a prison break out of the bar, the city and then the country. The film reminds me of this powerful friendship that has kept me going at my most vulnerable points and sometimes just the power of friendship in itself. Secondly, for the beautiful backstory that this film holds. The director Sofia Coppola talks about feeling lonely in her marital life with Spike Jonze through Scarlett Johansson’s isolation in her marriage. Her husband is always engaged with his work and more often than not they get very little time to spend with each other. Spike Jonze later directed Her, where he responds to his side of the marriage through Joaquin Phoenix’s marriage with Rooney Mara in the film. What really fascinated me is the way they choose to tell their stories. A state of confusion in Lost In Translation and an apology in Her, both never once hiding the amount of love and respect they had for each other. And this (what I’d like to believe) subtle way of understanding and letting go in love,  goes on to be a very important take back for me. Even if this piece of information is to be dismissed as a rumour, the importance of the film to me would still remain unstirred because it’s the same lesson that you learn from Bob and Charlotte. While researching for the blog, I came across Rotten Tomatoes stating the below as one of the best dialogues in the film. 

Bob Harris: (Inaudible whisper) Okay?

Charlotte: Okay.

That to me was everything. To put you in context, this is the last line that Bob tells Charlotte before they bid their goodbyes to each other. This was unscripted and nobody including the director knows what it is.  Bill Murray improvised these final lines to Scarlett Johansson in the film. There were interpretations about what those words could have meant but if you watch the film close enough you’ll know that you don’t need words to understand what they are trying to say to each other or what they are going through. You’ll just know. That to me is love.

In a world that consumes more content than fresh air, have you ever taken a moment to think about why we consume certain kind of content? Why do we watch the movies that we watch? What do movies mean to us? What do movies mean to me?

Movies mean the world to me. While a majority of the content that I consume, I do so for work or for research, I absolutely enjoy watching slice of life films. The ones that redefine life or just teach you what life really is. The ones that talk about the monotony in happiness and joys in sorrow. The kinds that speak about modernity, love or just what love means today. The bright yellow wallflowers on the rusted brick wall. The ones that tell me that Modern Love can be of uncertainties, unspoken words and utter confusion but that’s what makes it raw and beautiful. The films that makes every living soul want to fall in love over and over again. Have you ever tried losing yourself in Modern Love? Me neither. But now, I think I’d like to someday! 

Written By,

Swetha Pillai

 Also Read:

30 Film Scenes that still break my heart EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

In an age where each Friday is more forgettable than the last, there are some films and their scenes that even years after their release, manage to find a special place in our hearts even today, breaking them from inside in their own good, bad or bittersweet ways.

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