“If you believe in love at first sight, you never stop looking.”
And in some ways, I think that’s true.
Because for love at first sight, the instant reaction that you get is that of physical attraction and the frisson that accompanies desire. Are you attracted to the individual, or to the emotional high that you get with such immediate reaction? When that feeling fades away, when the excitement dies, would you be willing to settle for something more mundane?
Musings aside, I caught the movie last Friday and read on if you don’t mind spoilers.
It starts off with the chance meeting of Dan (Jude Law) and Alice (the delectable Natalie Portman) on the streets. The instant attraction that followed led to them being lovers and soon after, Dan wrote a book based on the life of Alice. At the photo shoot for his novel, Dan met Anna (Julia Roberts) and was soon pursuing her with a vengeance, despite the fact that he was still living with Alice. In a weird twist of fate, Dan’s actions led to a chance meeting between smarmy doctor Larry (the manly Clive Owen) and Anna, who soon hooked up together. The subsequent infidelity of Anna and Dan is the key to the story, whereby the lives of four people unravelled in ways that they had never expected.
Against the backdrop of Damien Rice’s haunting “The Blower’s Daughter”, Closer unfolded into a tale of relationships, infidelity and human psychology. It was crude at parts but overall, it was a brutal look at the way we love and deceive.
Dan personified the fickle man, who wanted to possess someone he could not have. The grass is greener on the other side – he loved Alice but Anna intrigued him more. And once he had Anna, he could not bear the thought that the tables were now turned on him, that she willingly slept with Larry in order to gain her freedom. He was indecisive, for it was both women who made the decision to leave him. And once they did, he was lost, pitiful.
On the other hand, Larry was the alpha male. He went for what he wanted, he was honest with his feelings. And yet, he proved to be an expert engineer, cleverly manipulating the situation to his advantage such that in the end, he ended up with everything he wanted (Anna).
Anna was someone who tried to do the right thing but failed to resist the temptation. Her indecision and love for both men proved to be her downfall, even when she thought she was doing the right thing. She was searching for the ideal love and realised that she would rather be with a man whom she did not love as much as he loved her than to be with someone who worshipped her but could not see beyond the act of possessing her.
The gem of the movie proved to be Natalie Portman’s Alice, she touched my heart the most. As a vulnerable child-woman, Alice was an open mystery. Her understanding of Dan is methodical – she knew him well enough to leave him twice. She ended up having the last laugh, being the greatest liar of them all in the movie.
The best thing about the movie is its intimacy, hence the title. The scenes often contain no more than two people engaging in the uglier aspects of love and relationships. When Larry quizzed Anna about her sex life with Dan ruthlessly, you feel a sense of sympathy for Larry, for his need to know was driven by how little he knew. And when Dan tried to stop Alice from leaving by saying that it was dangerous outside, her retort was borne out of intense hurt, “And it’s safer inside?” As Larry pursued the truth of Alice in the strip club, you sense that he is clawing for some semblance of honesty, having been deceived.
Most of the time, the dialogue stands on its own with no music accompaniment, which imparts a feeling of rawness. And when there is music accompaniment, it does not distract but merely enhances the mood. In addition, sterling performances from Natalie Portman and Clive Owen lent a ragged emotional tinge to the movie and the duo fully deserved their Academy Awards nominations.
What makes this movie interesting is that it does not gloss over the pain, betrayal and deception. Love is not always about moons and junes and ferris wheels, it can be nasty, gritty and hurtful too.