Senior ANDY Editor
Four of ANDY’s top five films of 2013 are love stories – Her, The Past, Blue is the Warmest Colour, and Upstream Color. Although these films are far more than their love stories – each one offers a whole universe of ideas and relationships – a common thread that runs through each work is a magnetic romance that both pulls and propels.
It’s true that most films contain love stories. They’re used as plot devices, as symbols, and as means of attracting audiences who want to see beautiful, naked bodies writhing on the big screen. Sometimes they are undeveloped, haphazard and corny. Often times they’re dishonest and silly and will only fill our most shallow longings.
But occasionally, a love story will stir something deep inside – it will invoke and articulate an emotion or an idea that we only ever felt instinctively. It will attach words to our desires, characters to our anxieties, and stories to our fears and dreams. We insist that the love stories of 2013 in our list do just that. But I am curious about what kind of information they reveal about us – why these love stories, why now?
We could look at Her and Upstream Color and comment on the giant, nearly unsurpassable space between the lovers. Does this speak to the loneliness of the modern age? Is Her about our love story with technology – how it makes us accessible, it unifies us, and yet alienates and disconnects us?
But this, to me, does not feel adequate. This brief interpretation is not sufficient for describing the true depth of emotion and intensity that this film brings to the surface. There’s something more here, something more about human intimacy and how it can be expressed and experienced in unique and unpredictable ways. At times, Twombly’s love-filled conversations with the digitized Samantha feel not unlike someone’s internal dialogue with a character in a book, or a musician in a song, or an actor in a movie. In each case, there is something strange and paradoxical going on – you look inwards, while also looking outwards.
Or we could think about Blue and say that its love story is a political statement – that it works to promote relationships and stories that subvert heteronormative narratives. But this too feels terse and incomplete.
Again, this story was too present, too fresh, too alive and too breathlessly engaging for so shallow a political analysis. This was more a film about human sexuality, about human connection, about how romantic love somehow speaks to our most desperate desire for contact. It was about how people find each other, fall apart, move on, and then spend forever wondering what happened and how they ended up here.
The Past expresses some of these same questions – how do relationships have this ability to be so fleeting and yet stay inside us for so long? How do we give ourselves over to another person so completely, fully aware that if they go, they’ll really be gone?
Bad love stories are really bad. Nauseatingly, loss-of-faith-in-humanity-bad. But good love stories – they’re really, really good. Sometimes they will carefully probe – other times they will aggressively challenge. But most of all, they make us feel less alone in our curious, inexplicable longings. Our top five films did that for us, and we hope that they may do the same for you.