Our air conditioning is out. Not a good thing In North Carolina. The prediction is for highs near 100 all week, so I hope we can get this fixed pronto! Meanwhile, I have my office ceiling fan on high speed, my hair up, my cooling Neckbandoo around my neck along with my portable mini-fan, but my computer glasses are still steaming up. I have a laptop I could take to Starbucks or the library, but I’m smack in the middle of revisions, and I’ve never been able to comfortably revise on a laptop, so I’m stuck. I feel terrible for Keeper and Jet, who are stuck here with me in their fur coats. 

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I thought I’d take a short break from revisions, though, to write about one of my pet peeves in movies and books. Have you ever seen a movie in which the writer tries to convince you that the characters are very much in love simply by showing (or telling) you that they make love often? A couple of nights ago, we watched an older film, The End of the Affair, with Julianne Moore and Ralph Fiennes. Although I like both these actors very much, I had a problem with the central premise of the movie–the supposed love story. The characters Moore and Fiennes portrayed were at it repeatedly, in various artfully-lit positions, but they didn’t do much in the way of talking (except to express jealousy and distrust).   Clearly, though, we were meant to believe the love they shared was the deepest of the deep. Undying. The sort you’d make great sacrifices for. Am I the only person who doesn’t find this believable or am I just getting too old and jaded?  I think the challenge for a writer who wants to show deep love between two characters, whether in a novel or a film, is to move way beyond sex scenes. Showing the development of a relationship and all the levels of communication that entails, while keeping the story entertaining, is difficult, but a relationship based solely on sex, as most of us know, usually has a short shelf life. (I need to add that this movie is based on a novel by Graham Greene, which I haven’t read.)

Here are a couple of examples of deep love between characters that I really bought into–hook, line and sinker–as a viewer. Karen Blixen and Denys Finch Hatton in Out of Africa and at the complete other end of the spectrum, Ross and Rachel in Friends

I’m curious to hear what you think. What makes you believe that two fictional people have a lasting love between them? Can you think of examples where the writer, in film or book form, pulled this off especially well (or not)? 

While you’re thinking about that, I’ll be calling the air conditioning company.

 

25 Comments

  1. Julie on June 5, 2008 at 1:49 am

    Well, I’ve raved about the movie Once before, and I’ll do it again. There is absolutely no sex in the story, and barely even a touch, and yet the unlikely love between the two main characters (who are also together in real life, surprise!) was almost palpable on the screen. The scene at the end of the movie where the girl looks out the window told a million words, to me.
    The Sex and the City movie did a pretty good job, ironically, at selling the idea that constant fooling around does not a great love or marriage make. It was all about the commitment, baby. 🙂
    The Mermaid Chair? Kept you wondering until the end, but …
    A Walk to Remember–a great message for young folks, in my opinion.
    I could go on. It appears to me from my short list that my favorites go this way.

  2. Gina on June 5, 2008 at 8:26 am

    For me it would have to be…….
    FOR TV….no better love story than between Luke and Laura of General Hospital. Anthony Geary and Genie Francis had the best chemistry that I haven’t seen for a long time on TV.
    FOR MOVIES…it would have to be, without question….LOVE STORY. I felt like I was right there with those characters peeking into their lives instead of watching it on the screen.
    FOR BOOKS….my favorite love story is in The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. I felt the love coming right THRU that book. I love, love, love that book.
    I’m sure I can think of more, but I’m just sipping my coffee now and my brain is slowly starting to function. LOL
    I hope you got your air conditioning fixed Diane. What a nightmare.

  3. Lorene on June 5, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward in The Thorn Birds.

  4. Margo on June 5, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Without a doubt, THE THORN BIRDS and the relationship between Ralph and Meggie (superbly played by Richard Chamberlain & Rachel Ward)…altho I pictured the characters in the book differently from the actors in the movie, they captured the essence of forbidden love with excellence. The love of Gavin & Tessa in the classic novel THE PROUD BREED by Celeste de Blasis was exceptional. Victor & Francesca in VOICE OF THE HEART is unforgettable. And of course, the emotional connection between Alec & Annie and Olivia and Alec from Diane’s Classic KEEPER OF THE LIGHT.
    All the above authors captured the heart & soul of characters that were believable. ‘The Lovers’ were real people who were not entirely perfect but their relationship was portrayed in a very tender way by the author or actors…showing love exists no matter what.

  5. Gina on June 5, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    I forgot about THE THORN BIRDS! Yes, totally agree.

  6. Diane Chamberlain on June 6, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Hmm, some interesting selections here, and some I haven’t seen and now want to. The Thorn Birds was definitely a good choice for this list. Ah, here’s another, and from my favorite movie: John and Alicia Nash in A Beautiful Mind. Of course, their relationship as depicted in the movie was quite different from their relationship in real life, but it was wonderfully believable from the prespective of a viewer.
    Oh, Julie, as for Once, we started to watch it and my significant other was bored, so we turned it off. I’ve heard such great things about it, that I guess I will have to rent it for an evening when he’s away.
    P.S. The AC guy arrived yesterday and all is well!

  7. Margo on June 6, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    Diane, your so right about John & Alicia Nash…A BEAUTIFUL MIND is a fav of mine. I have another to add to the list which is MURPHY’S ROMANCE…I love James Garner & Sally Field’s relationship in this movie and have watched it over and over. Some people might not agree with me but Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt were fantastic in AS GOOD AS IT GETS.

  8. brenda on June 7, 2008 at 10:30 am

    As to the air conditioning-you have my sympathy…It is in the 90’s this week and breaking all records. I am hot going from school to car. I will be going to my son’s in Miami Beach soon for a vacation-but at least I will sit by the ocean there…
    As to the love scenes-I can’t stand the explicit ones-can’t help it-I like the movies back in the day that left all to imagination…as to those listed here-good examples. When Clark Gable picks up Scarlett…Gone With the Wind…Bridges of Madison County-Robert…sorry I know some others don’t like that story-but I still think SHE gave up much for her family…who took her for granted…

  9. brenda on June 7, 2008 at 10:59 am

    I hope my comments about the latest by Frank, Coben, and Ann B. Ross got through…

  10. Brenda on June 7, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    My comments that did not get through—The latest: Dorothea Benton Frank–BULLS ISLAND…have any of you read it…I read it last night. The latest Harlan Coben…he uses adult themes and adult languages, but this one had a really important message in it…for teens and parents…Ann B. Ross-and her latest Miss Julia-I laughed out loud. (You can tell school is about out-I am reading even more).
    Julie-you might look at the books by my good friend, Craig Etchison-for your daughter. In one of them (the third World Weaver Trilogy book-I am Aunt Brenda)…Some of my students tell me his are the only books they ever read. Craig was my English prof/advisor and good friend. He still writes.

  11. Denise on June 7, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    I completely agree about *Out of Africa.* It is one of my very favorite love stories. It was subtle and sensual at the same time.
    As for books, I think the love between Teo and Cornelia in “Love Walked In” and “Belong to Me” (Marissa de los Santos) is beautiful and real.

  12. Diane Chamberlain on June 8, 2008 at 12:37 am

    All these movies and books that are being mentioned! I’m jotting down titles for the future. So many books and movies; so little time!

  13. Diane Chamberlain on June 8, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Last night, we stumbled across Coal Miner’s Daughter on HBO. That movie is 28 years old, but I’d never seen it. I loved Sissy Spacek in the role of Loretta Lynn. Along the topic of our conversation here, I really believed the love that grew between Lynn and her husband, although I have no idea if the movie was an accurate representation of their real-life relationship. What I liked about the portrayal, from the point of view of a writer, is that their relationship wasn’t a smooth and even course. It was full of rough patches, negotiations, and an underlying commitment to get through the hard times. It also touched on an element I’m familiar with from my personal life–how hard it can be on a spouse when his or her partner achieves success and some of the limelight. It had to have been particularly difficult in that era for a man to watch his wife outshine him. John and I found ourselves able to empathize with both Lynn and her husband, which is a tribute to the writers.

  14. brenda on June 8, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Loretta Lynn and her husband were together until his death. They had trying times. I believe one of their children died also…I remember seeing that movie at the theatre many many years ago. That is what love is about…Alice Hoffman’s latest book, THE THIRD ANGEL…about a woman who loves a man so much that…oops…let’s don’t give it away…be prepared to be surprised…
    Glad you got to see the movie…(Loretta Lynn)
    If you get the chance, watch the movie about Barbara Mandrell’s life-her accident-and the love from her husband…I think it was on television-not sure if it was in the theatre. The girl who played Mandrell did not do the job that Sissy did for Loretta Lynn, but the movie was great…No chance to watch it?
    Read Barbara’s book. I have determined why I have to do my entries more than once-I keep forgetting to put my name and email-not used to doing that…and even if I check remember personal info…it does it…sorry…senior moments

  15. Kathy on June 8, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    I agree with you about “The End of the Affair.” I found it slow moving and predictable and maybe that’s why – there just wasn’t enough substance to their relationship.

  16. Denise on June 8, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    One of my favorite old B&W movies was “Now, Voyager” with Claude Rains and Bette Davis. I love the drama of those old romances. “Now, Voyager” had some of the best lines ever! I also loved “Backstreet” with Susan Hayward, one of my favorite old actresses. “An Affair to Remember” was one of the greatest love stories ever, not to mention Donna Reed and Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life!”
    I think some of the old movies really captured true love without all of the bed-hopping in present day movies.

  17. Martha O'Quinn on June 9, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    Diane, the movie “August Rush” with Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Terrence Howard is one of the most understated movies I’ve ever seen, but leaves no doubt in my mind that there is such a thing as love at first sight. A huge different from lust at first sight and thereafter. The sequence of events between that first encounter and the next time the lovers meet requires a full box of tissues. Stay cool.

  18. brenda on June 9, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Oh my goodness!!! Denise, how could we forget “AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER”…I have a story to tell about that sometime…”It’s a Wonderful Life ” Yes!!!!

  19. Denise on June 9, 2008 at 7:10 pm

    Brenda, was there anything more sexy than when Jimmy stood behind Donna while she talked on the phone and took in her scent…and then laid one on her? Ooooh lah lah!
    Oh, and as for musicals, my favorite was “The King and I.” So romantic! I saw Yul the last two times he performed it in St. Louis. He made bald sexy before anybody else ever thought about it! Haha

  20. brenda on June 10, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    I have a few days between school ending and my trip to my son’s for two weeks. I am starting Diane’s books-I read them all every summer. Just rec. the latest to my ex-prof up at the grad school (some of you may remember that I finished my Master’s right before I turned 60)…I told her that D’s books are great for students and for writing about them…

  21. brenda on June 10, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    And Denise-when the actress in AFFAIR (D. Kerr) was lying on the couch and I thought he was going to leave…I almost jumped up to shut the door…
    In WONDERFUL LIFE-of course, two of my favorites actors…Jimmy and Donna…wow…

  22. brenda on June 11, 2008 at 9:20 am

    Diane-if you run out of ideas, I have always wondered what happened to LUCY in BAY AT MIDNIGHT…I loved her character…

  23. Diane Chamberlain on June 11, 2008 at 9:40 am

    I’d love to revisit Lucy’s story, Brenda. Maybe some day.
    Last night was my book launch. As soon as John gives me some of the pixes he took, I’ll post about it. It was super!

  24. Liz on June 11, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    RE: Books/movies – what about Pat Conroy’s Prince of Tides? And the love between Tom and Sally and Tom and Lowenberg? That book got me hooked on the SE part of the US – hence my imaginary love affair with North and South Carolina and looking for all books written about the coast. Diane – I am waiting until July 1 to start your book, so that I can savor it uninterrupted and skipping lots of blogs for fear that I might find out something I don’t want to. The little I’ve read gives nothing away. Thanks to all the readers – you are very good to keep everything unwritten.

  25. Gina on June 11, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    I’m so glad the book launch went well Diane. I can’t wait to see pictures.

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