A brief timeline and transition of romantic movies throughout the decades, and the kinds of lessons are to be taken away from them
Have you ever tried to plot your personal encounters with Cupid on a storyboard? Would you imagine yourself taking on the roles of a classical Shakespearean Romeo, or Jack Dawson in Titanic? Or would you see yourself as Tom Hansen in (500) Days of Summer, consistently trapped in a traumatic process of unrequited love?
If any of these questions deeply resonate with you, you probably frequent the movies – especially the ones regarding romance.
The statement “But that’s what I learnt from the movies!” should be deemed as the signature catchphrase of the clueless amateurs in the philosophy of love. Many of us are often guilty when it comes to resorting to watching movies to seek answers, hoping to discover the meaning of love through unrealistic – sometimes glamourized – romances and fictitious characters. I myself have personally taken away a handful of valuable lessons adapted from various movies, and have discovered a noticeable trend in the nature of romance films throughout the decades of film-making.
As major parts of the world were enveloped in the ominous atmosphere of uncertainty and the fear of losing loved ones during the World War II, many movies in the 40s were centralised around the themes of war and love. Filled with exuberant musical numbers and enthralling dance moves, the movie industry definitely played a significant role in being the external pillar of support for the ones affected by war – be it soldiers, or their wives spending every tick on the clock waiting for their spouses to return. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) distributed romantic comedies in glorious Technicolor, many of which included those starring Hollywood Hall of Famers Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland, just to name a few. During the war-torn era, love stories on screen were extreme morale boosters and apt for hopeful war victims, with highly anticipated scenes of main characters meeting each other again with an eventual joyful reunion after the war (as seen in musical comedies such as For Me and My Gal and Thousand Cheers).
Stepping aside from the period of the World War and venturing into later decades, romantic comedies were still proliferating movie theatres. From Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1961, to Nora Ephron’s renowned production When Harry Met Sally in 1989, movies with cliché, relieving happy endings were popularly raved about by many.
Evidently, there has been a transition in the storylines of romantic movies. Compared to movie makers in the past, writers and directors in today’s contemporary film industry seem to have engaged in a paradigm shift of mood regarding the outlook on love. The introduction of realism and skepticism to modern love stories has undoubtedly left typical movie goers pondering whether being in love is that simplistic and satisfying. In musical movie The Last Five Years (starring Anna Kendrick), the ideals of teenage love affairs are being questioned as a young couple discovers that they are better off as separate individuals after getting married recklessly (which may leave one in surprise – aren’t musical movies supposed to end off on a lively note where two people live happily ever after?). In Begin Again (starring Keira Knightley), the probability of one’s partner going astray even after going through an apparently stable relationship together is amplified, as Knightley’s character finds herself being cheated on.
However, many films of the modern era today hint to us that there is a silver lining for those who have once been devastated and hurt by someone else before. With movies such as The Diary of Bridget Jones and Love Actually still being the perfect epitome of hope for those who have long given up on love, the effect evoked by such movies of the 21st century bears a reassuring similarity to the feel-good movies of the World War II era.
If you have ever watched (500) Days of Summer and viewed yourself to be Tom Hansen, deeply entrapped in the ‘friend-zone’ to the point of no return, just remember that after every Summer comes an Autumn. Take a turn, a leap of faith – and meet someone as lost as you to help to get back up again. If you have not felt so, you probably are an optimist, or are very in love now – do continue believing in love and I hope that brings you a lifetime of happiness.