Love in Ground Zero *mild spoilers*
I was going through the mall, watching the selections of movies that were showing. My objective was two-fold: get myself inspired in this Valentine season, and for research, while just sitting back and enjoying a good movie. There were several good ones out there—a flick from the actress in Grey’s Anatomy, and another that was inspirational and meaningful (it might even be loosely based on a true story), etc. I quickly made a choice, and at the nick of time, as Cloverfield was just about to start.
Part Godzilla, part Blair Witch, and part Bug War (for Alien—or better yet, Starcraft fans—you’ll get what I mean), it’s an extraordinary love story set against the backdrop of chaos, and mayhem. I was surprised myself, but whittled down to its bare essentials, it was the story of separation, and the journey of one soul back to its true love.
Director J. J. Abrams took a page from Godfather II rather subtly: the story is actually divided into two periods—the time when a couple was still happily together, though there were already elements of growing estrangement there, and the disaster which stood out as the center of the movie. But what was different between this and Blair Witch, for example, is that there is an element of humanity in them, and not just a psychological whiplash of fear. The movie begins in the middle of estrangement of the two souls, with one about to leave, while being encouraged to go and try to make one last effort to make the seemingly-doomed relationship work. The main character is reluctant, already resigned to it.
Then, disaster strikes. Click. The minute he hears from her, he rushes back. He goes headlong amidst the chaos to get news of her. He rushes to almost-certain Death to the heart of the city, to save her. Without a second thought of the reasons of estrangement, or how it couldn’t work out, or any of the mess and pain in the relationship, he rushes.
Many people will think his actions are signs of an unrealistic bravado, that in the real world, given the same circumstances, people will mentally break, and hold themselves back. Heroics, however, are not an out-of-place phenomenon. When the towers of the World Trade Center were already smoking heaps, there were still good souls that ran up and down the different floors to evacuate the people still left inside. They weren’t firemen, or for that matter police, but were ordinary people that chose to stay until everyone was safe.
And the other important element is the relationship itself. Oftentimes, in funerals of loved ones caught in accidents or similar tragedies, those estranged to them beat their breasts and regret the last words they spoke on last meeting. It’s a real thing, and when given even a sliver of a chance to be redeemed of those bitter words, any one could be pushed to great lengths. They will deny any news of it, until they could make sure with their own eyes that there was nothing they could do (and they will deny even that limitation).
Another point of contention is that disasters like these sometimes serve as deus ex machina, where real problems and issues get sidestepped, and people just—come together, as if they were never estranged. What then would happen after the disaster? It would be unrealistic to say that magically, they reconcile their differences. What’s more plausible, and acceptable for sequels (as in John McLaine’s divorce in the Die Hard series) is that it really doesn’t save relationships or marriages. But again, why would it be so sure a thing? When faced with certain death, people cling to their nearest and dearest, that is a given. They are also left to contemplate about the life they have taken, and the priorities they have made for themselves. Most of these priorities were under the assumption that there is time left, that things could be patched up later. These could be “rerouted”, and changed. Why not?
Let’s go back to that scene in the movie, right before the disaster. Supposing it was just another ordinary celebration, and our main character is conflicted. He is encouraged by his brother and his best friend. Surrounded by those who care for him, it would seem a distant, though searing pain within him, but he could still opt to quit. The complication of the other guy (conveniently tossed aside in the wake of the disaster) still existed, and it could have ended there. If the disaster had not happened, he could have stood up, enjoyed the night, and left the next day (or few days). Or he could have stood up, made a few phone calls, and gave an effort to reconcile. It’s not impossible.
In many romantic films, this scene would have already been at the middle of the story. But the focus here is not the gradual feeling of love, and the “enflamed passion of a relationship” (though we are given a glimpse here). What we are shown is love in its purest—an action. Regardless of the history and the “emotional investments”.
Love is choice—and commitment to that choice.