Tuesday, April 28, 2015

no. no second thoughts

The opening shots of The Notebook evoke something peaceful, natural. Noah (though it might not actually be Noah in this instance) rowing in the early morning suggests something pastoral. Something timeless. In cinematic terms, it places the story within this film in the context of something bigger. There's a good reason, perhaps, that Noah has little more personality than crazy, borderline-stalkerish guy, who now 15 minutes in is seeming more free-spirited and maybe--just, maybe--a little less insane. He's the adolescent impulse to pursue the girl. That's it. Noah--his name even evoking something from long ago--is a guy who could be living in any time, any place, not just 1940s America. (Hell, after Allie leaves and he goes to war, his hair suggests someone who's a bit of an anachronism.) Gosling's character in Blue Valentine could be this same guy--and I don't mean to dismiss his acting ability; rather Noah Calhoun and Dean Pereira are like two ends of a spectrum, or their stories are. Cynthia "Cindy" Heller and Allison "Allie" Hamilton are like two sides of a coin--the decades between their lives change the details but the brushstrokes are much the same. She's the adolescent impulse toward love, girlish but with ambition to more. Her role would almost be feminist except it's hard for there to be feminism in a film in which the lead female's mother explains to her how she, too, loved a man of which her father did not approve, and she chose a more "suitable" boy. Allie--her name suggesting nobility, not just the upper class in which the film places her but something more special. She's idealized beyond Noah and his interest, beyond the fantasy.

Blue Valentine is like the darker sibling to The Notebook. The main relationship is really just as broken, just as twisted, and just as saccharine, but this lighter sibling is not nearly as painful. Pain is glossed over, left behind for new ventures. Noah moves on to war and then Martha minutes after they break up. (And Fin dies almost as a sidenote... oh, SPOILERS) Allie moves on to Lon minutes after that. Time is not real in this film but a shrunken-down thing that exists solely within film--

(and the fantasies of adolescents in love... not that Noah or Allie are, strictly speaking, adolescents, but aren't we all adolescent when we're in love, or lustful, or infatuated, or even just nursing a crush? Age becomes an irrelevant detail, as does most everything in the world.)

--and important details are glossed over. Allie falls in love with Lon in a sentence. Noah goes "a little mad" and gets to work on his house in another sentence. I've already mentioned above how Fin dies in passing. So does Noah's father. Relative to the timeless love story this movie is trying to tell us, these things--even life and death--just don't matter. Backtrack to that parenthetical just now and of course this stuff needs to be glossed over. Everything exists right now and everything else--even "falling in love" in the case of Allie and Lon--is extraneous details on the road to Allie and Noah being together.

Metaphors are a bit obvious, too. It's like this movie exists in the mind of teenagers in love as much as its plot invokes them. The birds, for example... I was just doublechecking whether those were swans or geese and I found the CliffsNotes for The Notebook. That these exist is a little frightening--I know Nicholas Sparks has some fans and this book (and film) has a bit of a cult following, but it's hardly a classic--and a little disappointing as whoever wrote this particular entry on the chapter entitled "Swans and Storms" is not particularly objective... Just read:

Noah tells Allie, "You are the answer to every prayer I've offered... I don't know how I could have lived without you for as long as I have [14 years, in the book, by the way, not 7]. I love you, Allie... I always have, and I always will." These lines connect the thematic topics of religion, faith, fate, free will, and spirituality, leaving both Allie and readers speechless.

Now, even if that last bit happens to be true--and I'm guessing anyone who would read The Notebook is probably not only speechless (which is a strange choice of words for a reader) but in tears at Noah's declaration--you don't include it in the CliffsNotes.

(By the way, the entry on the chapter "An Unexpected Visitor" mentions how, "The shorter chapters... increase the pace and suspense of the narrative, contrasting with the leisurely pace of the time Allie and Noah spend together alone." So, the book works a bit like the movie in that regard, speeding through some elements to spend time on Noah and Allie. I mean, just look at the boat scene with the swans (and geese, as well, apparently), for example...)

Regarding the birds, Noah tells Allie, "They're supposed to migrate to the Guatemala sound."

"They won't stay here," Allie asks.

"No," Noah replies, "they'll go back where they came from." Just like he expects Allie will. Just as she did years earlier.

A bit on the nose. Then comes the storm... But first, Allie observes, "You're different."

"What do you mean?"

Just the way you look," she says. "Everything."

You look different, too," Noah replies, "but in a good way."

Allie adds, "You know, you're kinda the same though." At this point, they are of course still transitioning, still stuck at least partly in their past selves, their past ideas of who they are and how they can be together. Then comes the storm. A cleansing rain like The Shawshank Redemption, Garden State, Forrest Gump, and (in a reverse cleanse) Unforgiven... not to mention so many more that just aren't coming to mind right now. It's a bit obvious, but we fall for it often. Water washes away the past, washes away mistakes. And, on film, we like our metaphors to be a bit obvious sometimes, so we can move on to other things.

The rain also places what should be the climax of the film out in nature, like the evocative opening scenes. I say "should be" because we've still got Anne and Martha and Lon to deal with, not to mention an extended sequence in the present with old Noah and old Allie. Structurally, it's just a bit off. Still, it brings us back to nature, and puts love right up against a rainstorm as a natural element of the world that we cannot fight. We just gotta let it soak us.

No comments:

Post a Comment