After being immersed in romance films for a whole week. Today we arrive at our final destination. It has been an inspiring journey. I have learnt much about films and about myself. Through 9 different films from the last 70 years, I have learnt that love is patience, love is sacrifice, love is fragile, love is everyday, love is a choice, love is felt, and that love is madness. Today, we will embark our final leg of this inspiring journey;
The Artist (2011), Love is a Mystery
The Artist (2011) directed by Michel Hazanavivius is set in the late 1920s. The plot follows the story of George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), an established silent movie star. In the beginning of the film, we see George being showered with affection by media and fans alike at the premier of his new movie. While talking to the reporters, George meets young extra called Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo). Under the encouragement of the tabloid reporters, Peppy gives George a kiss on the cheek which makes the cover story of next day’s paper.
Furious about the fact that the papers all focused on George’s “affair” and not the movie, the director attempts to fire Peppy. However, George steps in and saves the day. Romance began growing between the two. While in George’s dressing room, George gave Peppy some advices about being an actress and tells Peppy that if she wants to be successful, she needs to be unique. As he said that, he drew for her a beauty spot just above her lips. With the advice of George, Miller steadily grew to become a star in her own right.
Then came the 1930s and the invention of sound in films. George saw sound as a gimmick and resigned from his studio to make his own silent films. Peppy on the other hand became the new face of the studio. Things became dire for George after the stock market crash of the 1930s and the failure of his film as most people rushes to see the new “talkies”. Broke and washed up, George is forced to find his place in this new era.
I can go on with the plot synopsis but that’s really not what’s great about this film. The thing that makes this film brilliant is the fact that it is actually a silent film. That means for the entire duration of the film, there are no ambient sound, no speech, just a Hollywood 1920s style, orchestral soundtrack. One of the only exception is when George was having a nightmare. Inside the nightmare, there was sound everywhere around him; the sound of footsteps, the sound of extra’s laughters, the sound of door creaking, but he was unable to speak. In that sense, this is perhaps one of the most innovative film I have seen in the past week.
In The Artist, George and Peppy can each be seen as representatives of their respective era. George of the silent era, and Peppy of the sound era. Metaphorically, their relationship can be seen as the love that transcends time and space. The fact that Peppy became as successful as she did was because of George’s advice, and that the reason George was able to survive after his bankruptcy was due to Peppy highlights the co-dependent nature of a loving relationship.
Additionally, the return to silent film serve as a reminder of the captivity of the subject of love. Since the earliest films, love has always been the center of focus. From tales of middle class family disputes, to the dramatic love during world war, to the love that overcomes time and space itself, love has always took the center of attention. From silent films, to “talkies”, to colored films, to multi-million dollars special effect extravaganza, and right back to silent films, we as an audience never seem to get tired of the subject matter. After all, regardless of all attempts to capture love, love is something that can only be felt.
Sometimes, this powerful feelings could drive us to madness. This madness is not bad, but this madness alone is not love. Instead, love also entails patience. Because love is like a rose bud, it is desirable, but it is also fragile. Only with the appropriet care and at the appropriet time can it blossom in to the beautiful flower.
Love also needs to forget about the self and focus on the other. Love is not a transaction or investment. Love is not about the profit, or the return. But the other person. Only when both people are willing to sacrifice can things work out for the better. Even if this sometimes means giving up on love itself. Perhaps we are so obsessed with love because it is a desire built into each one of us; the desire to love others and a the desire to be loved. Maybe love is the whole purpose of our existence.
The problem is, the more I try to unravel love, the more tied up I find myself. Love is patient, love is sacrifice, and love is fragile, but that seems so contradictory. Love is everyday, love is a choice, yet love is also felt and completely mad! I simply don’t understand how that’s so. After nearly 10,000 words, I feel like I am at a complete loss because I don’t seem to understand love at all. Perhaps, that admission is all that I should have learnt. Maybe love just isn’t something that can simply be described with words. Instead, it demands to be felt, and need to be experienced. Maybe it’s time to get out of the room, away from the screen and seek rather than think. Because love is a mystery.