Sunday, June 18, 2006

The greatest thing you'll ever learn...

Watched Moulin Rouge tonight with a group of friends – a funny movie to watch the night after seeing Closer, as the two movies are sort of polar opposites of one another. Both love stories to some degree, but one focused on the idealistic, romantic side of love, the other focused on the darker, seedier, and more selfish side.

Strangely, I love both stories.

Those of you more closely acquainted with my bitter and jaded side might it odd to think that I’d enjoy a movie like Moulin Rouge, but I’ve said before that I think all good stories are ultimately love stories on some level. You can have all the explosions and car chases and zombies and aching existentialist drama that you want, if you haven’t got a love story in there somewhere, it’s simply never going to be a *great* story.

And bear in mind that when I say that all great stories are love stories, I’m not saying that all love stories should have happy endings. Sometimes love ends tragically. Sometimes it ends painfully. Sometimes it ends angrily. Sometimes it ends with violence. Sometimes it ends quietly.

Those are all things that we can relate to, and in relating to them, relate to those characters.

Though Moulin Rouge ends in tragedy, the love story it depicts is the kind we’re all used to seeing in films and books – the fairy-tale love story of a true love, that knows no bounds, that will live until the end of time. Which, unfortunately, is a fairy-tale 99% of the time. Which is why its so appealing when we see it up on the screen, and are given the chance to dream about it for two hours.

I wrote a column a few years ago about research that had been done that indicated that women who grew up reading fairy-tales about this sort of true love were more prone to end up in abusive relationships. Which is sort of sad, if you think about those women waiting for their ugly, violent, horrible husbands to finally turn into the Prince Charming they believe, in their hearts, that they can be.

But they won’t be. Because most love stories turn out like they do in Closer. With pain and betrayal and lies and tears. Which is, for an entirely opposing reason, why people can relate to a story like that. Because they’ve lived it, or something similar, at least once in their lives. They recognize the words and the intentions and actions, because they’ve been there themselves.

The one issue I have with Closer is that, when you strip all that ugliness away, there’s very little warmth left at the heart of it, which is too bad, because no matter how terribly a love story might turn out, it was always – at one point – a love story. The sort of love that feels almost like a fairy-tale, that you hope might last forever, but in your heart you know will fade. That’s always where it starts, before things turn sour, but there’s so little of that in Closer. I think maybe if there was more of it, the play would ring even more profoundly true, but then you’ve only got so much time to tell your story too.

But in Moulin Rouge, once you strip away the glitz and the spectacle and the over-the-top fairy tale, what your left with is a very simple message, and a powerful and important one. One that we can all take to heart, and think about every once and awhile.

The great thing you’ll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return.

Not matter where your love goes, no matter what the future holds for it, its enough that it existed in the first place.

That’s something that Dan, Larry, Alice and Anna could have spent some time thinking about.