Gregor’s Bed – A Happy Anti-Valentine

Recent Discoveries from the Realm of the Experimental and the Avant Garde

Six Indie Tales of Love Deflected, Disappointed, and Enlightened

I was trying to be good, really. I set out with the noble, if somewhat conventional goal, of finding a meaningful romantic film to recommend in my column, “The Mindful Bard”, for Valentine’s Day. I watched about ten minutes into five new romantic movies, most of which are critically acclaimed.

Why only ten minutes each? Not one of them made the cut. Oh, the narcissism. The shallowness. The self-conscious posing. The absence of boundaries, bringing with it an absence of any meaningful connection. The plots that always involved either married people looking for greener pastures, with no regard to their marriage vows or their children, or ?love? relationships that grew out of one-night stands.

So then I thought of looking for films with a twisted take on love?this peculiarity of the human animal to swell with oceanic feelings when attracted to a potential sex partner. But any discussion of this kind of film belonged in Gregor’s Bed.

Lover as Inanimate Object

In no time, I found six film shorts that looked at this crazy little thing called love from a spectrum of crazy little viewpoints. Some interesting themes emerged, perhaps the most fascinating being the idea of the lover as inanimate object filled with longing while helpless to express it, a state familiar to those who’ve experienced their share of unrequited love.

(Warning: Spoiler alert.)

In Slogan, the lover is a grinning guy in a cheesy Hawaiian shirt, on a billboard advertising a tropical vacation. The object of his desire is a girl who waits at the bus stop below him every morning. When no one’s looking, his eyes follow her (once he even moves closer to see what She’s reading). He observes her love life falling apart and tries desperately to leave clues to indicate to her that he’s ?real.? She finally understands and that tropical vacation becomes the context of their happily-ever-after.

Continuing the theme of the inanimate lover, in the Italian Eros e Thanatos, an anatomy class skeleton named Antonio Femore falls in love with a student. Alone at night, he recites the most beautiful ode to love and loneliness, but eventually pulls himself up and thinks of a way to make contact with the girl. In the end, his desire shows itself for what it is: the sublimation of a frustrated libido that really wants nothing more than a little naughty physical contact with a beautiful love object.

Love and Death

Eros e Thanatos isn’t the only one of these films that deals with love and death, the long slow waltz between the urge to procreate and the reality of human mortality. Another of these shorts, Carefully Descending, touches on the same theme of psychic energy being strong enough to cross the threshold from death into life and back again. A man is haunted by dreams and hallucinations of a beautiful woman he doesn’t know. As it turns out, she had known him, having loved him from a distance during the months before her accidental death.

The bizarre, and somewhat disturbing, Rigor Mortis also appears to be about death. But on closer inspection is about the tragedy of being married to an otherwise very attractive man who callously forces his wife to play second fiddle to another woman. In this case the other woman is a zombie-like spectre who just hangs around, silent and motionless. Apparently hubby prefers clinging to past memories to entering the rigorous give-and-take?and necessary personal growth?that comes with real relationships.

But even real relationships aren’t always firmly rooted enough to hold up in the face of difficult truths. In Dan Invited Hannah Over for Dinner the girl is fantasizing wedding bells when She’s forced to come up against a hideous spectre. The love inside her, bred from a long, comfortable, seamless sexual relationship with a man whose apartment She’s never even seen before now, isn’t equal to this challenge to her lifelong habit of shallow affect. In the end, it was never about the love.

Waking Up

Shallow affect is almost the main character in the enlightening comedy Blessing in Disguise, in which we see the self-absorbed recreational sex of modern twenty-somethings for what it really is: an escape from intimacy made possible by a promiscuous culture and a misguided belief in one’s own invincibility. It takes an STD to wake the main character to the futile emptiness of her previous lifestyle and compel her to pursue the riches that lie beyond loveless sex.

If indie filmmakers, as I suspect, have their fingers on the pulse of the future (if they are not in fact creating the future as they go), what are we to surmise about the horizons of postmodern love? Perhaps that the pendulum is swinging back to stricter sexual mores. Here’s hoping that social change will be informed by the excesses of the past, recognizing the harmful effects of both prudery and license.

Editor’s note: All movies mentioned and the images below can be found on the site

Wanda also penned the poems for the artist book They Tell My Tale to Children Now to Help Them to be Good, a collection of meditations on fairy tales, illustrated by artist Susan Malmstrom.