can we bend the rules of Love?
no one is exempt from its course
a curse so sweet we seek it with despair
like a shipwrecked looks for rescue
like a philosopher looks for meaning
like a writer looks for the right words
the lover wants wants wants
and Love only gives…
sometimes heartache, other times bliss
we are as misfortunate to have it cross our twisted paths
as we are fortunate
and no one can deny
it is the gravitational force
that befriends enemies
that builds cities and creates sonnets
the earth’s heartbeat, the paralyzing fear, the one we avoid at all costs, the writhing agony, the never-ending blues, the crack in the most perfect plan, the glitch in the system, the only one we run towards only to escape it
Love is a disease, an addiction, an itch
it is that which demands
and demands it now
Love, a shattering quake
the rhythm that plays on and on
a lack, an ache
it is war and creation
a grand cathedral
the ocean in one drop
the most visible star of the night sky
it is chaos
it is plural, multitudes and multiverses
you and you alone
Love, the ripper of all hearts
against all sanity
illuminating the way with candor and without remorse
the x and the y from all equations
the perfect equilibrium
that which will find a way
that which will split you into thousands of pieces with grace
Love, the governor of all governments
the great defender of law, the best practice and the highest degree
in the hands of god, to work miracles
to lay sorrow at your feet
to create a universe for two
a delirium , a mystery, a utopia, an idyllic vision, a temporary madness, a warm season,
fly fly little one
towards the realm of Love
give in to its whim
even when the lights dim
and fall again
This marks my first attempt at a movie review, although it could turn out as more of a movie rant. In my book, if something makes you feel, it’s art. And if it makes you feel something you didn’t think it was possible to feel, then it’s artistic purpose has been more than served. This movie has indeed “cunning ways of finding your weakest spot”. More than a magnetic cinematic experience, this masterpiece is in its totality an emotional journey like no other. “Call Me By Your Name” (directed by Luca Guadagnino) seduces you at first, pulls you in, almost hypnotizes you, then it makes you fall in love only to eventually rip your heart out. Sounds familiar?
It acts like the lover we’ve always wished we had, like the one we lost forever… We go from lust to agony to ecstasy to joy and lust again – we literally traverse every possible human emotion. It is that kind of movie which by the end of it will make us feel more humane simply because we got to experience it… to experience love at the highest level, in its simplest form.
Once you’re caught in this mirage, there’s no turning back. You are so immersed in the story you begin to feel just as enamored as Elio (played by Timothée Chalamet), longing for reciprocity, recalling your teenage years, reliving the better days, when all grass was green, when rivers welcomed you naked and vulnerable, when you welcomed darkness with your lover beside you… What astounds me about this movie is that every scene, every landscape, every word, gesture, character – everything seems to be aligned to the love between Elio and Oliver (played by Armie Hammer), serving it well. Each small element helps build a love so intense and disarming, all-encompassing and fresh, consuming and maddening and really unique. Every line, every tree, every fruit, every musical note that Elio transcribes, summer itself – all bow down to humanity’s deepest most enthralling sentiment.
Here is also why I believe this movie is the first one of its kind and why it will probably go down in the history of cinema. Aside from the brilliant performance of Timothée Chalamet, the magnificent scenery, and the magnitude of the story that unfolds, this movie cryptically manages to rise above labels. It aims to tell a universal tale and so it escapes identity politics; in that sense, if you think it’s a gay love story because there are two guys falling in love, you’re missing the point. This is not a gay movie and it’s not an LGBT movie. What is being depicted on the screen is the inner turmoil of a 17-year old falling in love for the first time. Nowhere in the movie (and perhaps nowhere in the novel either) is their sexual orientation specified and that’s because it wouldn’t serve the story. You are watching a younger version of yourself falling in love, longing, exploring and you reminisce about what could have been, and that is regardless of who you are, your gender, your social background and so on. As Timothée himself states in an interview, art happens in the eye of the viewer. For me, this is a story about lost love and about allowing yourself to grieve.
The movie also stands out because of the graceful way in which it portrays masculinity. Unlike other on-screen love story between two men, there is not a single trace of compulsive masculinity or violence. For me, this leaves Elio and Oliver gravitating in a utopic universe, outside any gender norms, with only love and tenderness for each other. There is a closeness that is rare between two men on screen, an intimacy that will leave you in awe and a friendship to celebrate all of our most-treasured friendships. Moreover, there is no eventual punishment, no bullying or ridicule, no death – all ubiquitous elements in “gay themed” movies. One moment that stands out in the story is the handshake between the two lovers (see photo above), as a symbol of peace, friendship, unity, and love – all so much needed amidst today’s socio-political unrest.
This is a love story that feels genuine, always in your proximity. In the end, you are the one becoming aligned with this force. Because you have retained your ability to feel, as Elio’s father (played by Michael Stuhlbarg) advises him, you are transformed. But not before you go through the soul-ripping experience of losing the one you love, of course, all by means of a nothing short of a cathartic performance that could even get young Timothée Chalamet an Oscar nomination (fingers crossed).
The movie’s philosophical, linguistic, artistic as well as erotic tones give the story a bohemian vibe and adorn it with many symbols, as we vibrate alongside Elio and Oliver (or I should say Oliver and Elio). Every character becomes an artist, not only contemplating, but delivering this nascent and forgiving love. We listen to piano chords from Bach, we savor nature’s ripe fruits, we read 16th century French romance, we swim in the river, we make love and hear the leaves of endless possibilities shuffling outside our window. And of course, we wish it never ended. When was the last time you felt this way about a movie?
Spoiler alert: it does end. And it will break your heart only to stitch it back together. This splendid celebration of love will bring you back to life, will remind you why it matters to remain open and vulnerable, and why it is always “better to speak”. It will not solve the mystery of love though. But you will most certainly remember this cinematic feast as one of those experiences that has touched you.
Nothing seems to surprise us more than the abrupt realization that, yes, one more year has passed. A whole year, an instant. One moment of deciding how the story goes, where we go from here. Of course, our mind rushes to say “up, always upwards”. We want to grab this year by the hand, shake off the bad stuff, strange happenings, instances of grief or mere loneliness, and dip in the pulp of juicy moments, the joy, warmth, our deep connections and perhaps the small epiphanies.
Only that we can’t, can we? Because life itself, time is but a tree with rotten as well as healthy fruits. We can’t rid ourselves of broken-ness, or drip magic potions onto our crying wounds. We can’t turn a blind eye to our past and perhaps we shouldn’t. It is our former experiences that allow us to stand on their shoulders and view the world afresh. Hurt shapes our emotional maturity more than anything else will. Is that self-deceptive rationalization? Could be.
In the end, what matters is what we do with what’s given to us. Even after many instances when I wanted to shut down and feel nothing, I remain convinced that to feel, or rather to retain the ability to feel is one’s ultimate triumph. A hard-won trophy that required days on end of patience and tending. And yes, healing. (Well, as much as trophies can heal).
The point is, when indifference, sadness, loneliness or pain hit and hit hard, don’t escape them by using that little back door. That will lead to an even lonelier place. Choose to sit with them and welcome whatever it is that you’re feeling right now. Be honest with what’s going on inside you, alert but never reacting. Respond instead in such a way that you will not regret it days or weeks afterwards. I have not always done so and hurt people as a consequence, people I cared for deeply whom I still keep in – and they promise to never leave.
I immerse myself in the new year with as few expectations as possible, openly. More precisely, I give myself to it completely, accepting that there will be good times ahead as well as bad ones. Who is to decide how much of which, or when? All I know is that I am the one in charge of watching everything come and go, as well as everyone. Because we don’t really get to choose who leaves our life or who stays either. And it’s not god playing dice, we’re just at the mercy of someone else’s choices.
A rather steep conclusion I’ve come at the dusk of this period is that human relationships are incredibly frail. Tragically, that coincides with another breakthrough – that deep meaningful human connection is irreplaceable. It is the birthplace of all that matters, but also the cradle of excruciating pain (cannot escape duality, can we?). And frail as they are, our relationships enrich us beyond any measure, if we allow them. Frail as they are, it is our relationships that we turn to when something goes wrong, or right; whether we weep or rejoice, we are almost hardwired to share our experiences.
Complex as human connection is, I have found there are no mathematics that could explain or quantify love. In the grand equation of life, love remains largely an x. A quite essential one though. Then, no mathematics can explain why some things happen the way they do, why they happen to us, or why they happen to us at a specific moment in time. Is it perfect timing, luck, fate, coincidence? It has come to my attention lately that there is a lot of random in the universe. In fact, there is more random than our organizing brains can bear (oddly enough, I chose the Random category for this post). So what do we do with it? Some even chase it, I run from it as hard as I can. As much as I incline to believe in a benevolent universe, where the stars align at ease just to please us, I can’t not recognize how much that is the epitome of self-centered-ness. Or is it? How about collective consciousness? And what about agency? The way I see it, science has its limitations and maybe it ends where human insight begins.
But back to love. Because, as someone once said, it all comes back to that. So keep your family and your friends close (and no, not your enemies closer). That’s one of the few things we have to do, one that will impact our well-being more than anything else. In a world of chaos and never-ending socio-political turmoil and unrest, rest. Self-care is a radical act and it will shape every aspect of your life. As for me, I must go on singing, painting and writing – the three strongest forces that have kept me afloat.
I started this year from a place of hopelessness and meaninglessness. I have read and written my way out of depression (Monologue of the Déprimé, Dialogue on Depression, One More, With Feeling) and after about two years of “flirting” with what someone called “emotional cancer”, I have reached some balance. I managed to shake off the grey and keep the vibrant colors. So luckily, I have not come full circle, on the contrary. I feel most grateful to the people who surrounded me and made my days better and lighter. At this moment, it seems that carrying on is the only raison d’être, even when there’s a marching band aggressively chanting in my head “QUIT QUIT QUIT!”. Or, yes, especially then. To those still battling mental health problems, I say you can overcome them. And when you will, you will find life rewarding again.
Some things have not turned out the way I planned to this year. They almost never fucking do. But that’s alright. It would be boring if we weren’t surprised every now and again. And then, “sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.” So let there be music and cheer. And some tears too.
Also, the psychoanalytical odyssey continues. Have a jolly good year!