I am not at all moved to write specifically on the subject, on the event, of Valentine’s Day. This is for at least two reasons:
a) I have never appreciated the commercial pseudo “holiday-ness” with all of its banal pink hearts and God forbid -teddy bears.
b) I am irreparable.
But I was thinking a little. And then I got to thinking about love scenes in movies. And then I began to think about a film that I saw that had, in my opinion, one of the best love scenes ever filmed in movie history. Love scenes are tricky things. Invariable they go one of two ways: they are either all about the passion or all about the love. And very often don’t realize either. The reason why this one is so amazing is because it is both. The film is The Werckmeister Harmonies by Hungarian director Béla Tarr.
It is an amazing experience, filmed in very long shots, some of them up to 10 or 15 minutes long. Some of the more famous scenes can be viewed on you tube, but I don’t recommend this. The “shower” scene is one of them, but to fully appreciate the impact of the moment you really need to have let yourself get absorbed in the entire lead up. It is worth it.
The love scene to which I allude, alas, is nowhere to be found on you tube. It may very well be that I am alone in finding this scene extraordinary. So be it. It takes place in a kitchen of a prepared-food shop where the young protagonist has gone to pick up a meal for an older gentleman. That alone is enough to recommend itself to me.
I really love to see food preparation and kitchens in films. This is a kind of austere eastern European kitchen, the young man brings a container to get the food. The container is perhaps ubiquitous in Budapest, I wouldn’t know, but it is a wondrous object to me. A series of interlocking white cylinders that attach together with long metal clasps on either side making a handle on top. I love the way it looked, and the way the woman spooned the food into it, so expertly and indifferently.
A little later on, almost vis-á-vis nothing (or at least I can’t really remember why exactly), the camera goes back to this kitchen; there is a man sitting behind the counter eating, a little greedily. A woman sits on his lap waiting for him to finish, a little impatiently. When he is done, they look at each other for a moment, and then kiss. With passion. And then they pull apart, and look into each other’s eyes. There in each other’s gaze is everything they feel, and it is so lovely: the emotion of it. Dead serious, playful, sweet, lustful…it is pitch perfect. And then they pull themselves to one another to kiss again: she pulls him by his scarf to her, or he grabs her, it goes back and forth in this way.
That is all. It’s fairly chaste, but all that could be revealed in film on the subject of romantic love is there. It’s very moving. The entire film is very moving. True, other than me, it’s probably not anyone’s idea of a “Valentine’s Day” film. It’s really a devastating exploration of societal madness. It remains however a brilliant film with as tender and beautiful a love scene as ever there was. So, happy valentine’s day.