S.W.A.L.K.

SWAK1Exactly 32 years ago today, I wrote: “I just want to be brief about what is on my mind at this moment…”

It was Sunday, Nov. 15, 1981. The journal reads: “[A] movie I saw this afternoon on television entitled ‘Melody.’ Produced in 1972, a British film. It was about an 11-yr old boy in love with a 12-yr old girl, but there was more to the film than that silly, childish premise. I felt something beautiful in some of the scenes in the film, I felt whole, satisfied, yet anxious.”

The entry concludes: “I feel as though I’m ruining my enjoyment of the film by trying this writing. I saw something very old and lost in the eyes of the young girl, Melody. In a sense, I saw my future, I saw love only through innocence, and I felt sad to think that the film was no closer to me than the Moon.

“I haven’t said all that I want to say on this yet.”

***

I can still remember that November day after I’d watched the film. I walked the backwoods path down to the dock at the Family Project’s farmhouse on Whaletail Lake, lost in thought. Twelve days later I’d be turning 22. But at the moment I was reminded that, like Melody and her first love Daniel, I, too, had started young.SWAK2

My first girlfriend, Tonya, attended my 9th birthday party (me at right, blowing out candles, Tonya left side of table, brown hair, yellow top and plaid skirt)—one of only two girls there (neighbor buddy John, right side of table in yellow shirt, sits next to his girlfriend Bobbie, with the blonde hair) in 1968. Although little brother razzed me for even having a girlfriend, it didn’t matter to me. He’d figure it out in time.

“In a sense I saw my future, I saw love only through innocence…” A gamut of expectations came with young love: handwritten notes on folded, ruled paper, tokens of affection, and time together holding hands or, even, kissing.

It all seemed so natural, so delightful, so easy.

That Sunday in 1981 I was feeling out of sorts, lonely. Melody (originally titled S.W.A.L.K., “Sealed With a Loving Kiss,” in Britain) brought to the surface lost feelings, which accounts for the statement that the movie “was no closer to me than the Moon.”

Author Anne Carson describes this as “finding the edge,” the demarcation between self and other, “When I desire you, a part of me is gone: my want of you partakes of me.” Carson retells Aristophanes’ account from Plato’s Symposium: “Human beings were originally round organisms, each composed of two people joined together as one perfect sphere. These rolled about everywhere and were exceedingly happy.” When these egg-like creatures offended Zeus and the gods of Olympus, they were each chopped in two. “As a result,” Carson writes, “everyone must now go through life in search of the one and only other person who can round him out again.”

So Daniel and Melody, in the film, have at least “found” each other. It’s a joyful discovery, yet the world intrudes on their happiness, attempting to tear them apart. They want to get married, but Melody’s father tells her that people get married when they’re older, “in their 20s, later sometimes.” Melody refuses to wait. “But we want to be together now … why is it so difficult when all I want to do is be happy?”

Roland Barthes underscores Melody’s exasperation in his A Lover’s Discourse:

“What do I care about a limited relation? It makes me suffer. Doubtless, if someone were to ask me: ‘How are things going with you and X?’ I should reply: Right now I’m exploring our limits; ninny that I am, I make the advances, I circumscribe our common territory. But what I dream of is all the others in a single person; for if I united X, Y, and Z, by the line passing through all these presently starred points, I should form a perfect figure: my other would be born.”

Can the edge separating one person from another ever be breached? Will the gap between me and the Moon ever close?

What is true love and a lasting union?

Two days after my 22nd birthday, another Sunday, I wrote in the journal: “Still thinking about lost innocence. Just finished reading a biography of Alain-Fournier by R. Gibson. They never found Alain-Fournier’s body. He died in the First World War. He loved a girl he only saw once—for eight years he could love no one but her. I think he’s lucky to have seen the girl of his dreams. It’s so hard to see anything nowadays.

“Still, I’m waiting.”

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~ by completelyinthedark on November 15, 2013.

5 Responses to “S.W.A.L.K.”

  1. Your post above, which I’ve only just seen, hit a number of chords with me.

    Having first seen this film in 1971 shortly after having left school in London, and having long considered Le Grand Meaulnes my favourite novel since reading it in 1972, I only made a connection between the two a couple of months ago when finally getting round to reading Robert Gibson’s biography of Fournier, though I’d had it since 1974. A few years ago, when updating his biography (I’ve since read – courtesy of the Web), Gibson called the novel “…the most delicate rendering so far achieved in literature of the Romatic adolescent consciousness”. Substitute “cinema” for “literature” and you have a description of the 1971 film Melody (it’s original title after an ill-conceived name change). More would agree over the book rather than the film; both have a cult rather than popular status in the UK, though the novel is revered in France, and the film has been hugely popular in Latin America (especially in Argentina and amongst Mexican film makers) and Japan. But I hope, if not quite believe the judgment of time will bear me out amongst English speakers – including its producer and writer. I could talk about film and novel endlessly, and indeed, finally, about the Symposium, whose tale of sundered lovers I borrowed for my wedding speech…
    I would only add re the scene of the film you quote, that its the, beautifully rendered, distress of Melody’s parents and gran – Loveing but hopelessly uncomprehending, in trully Shakespearean – Juliet’s nurse fashion, that gives the scene its aching poignancy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Mike. I’d probably seen “Melody” earlier than 1981 (probably an ABC-TV “Afterschool Special,” as they were called then) but the diary entry about how wistful I felt after seeing it that day did bring to mind Le Grand Meaulnes and Plato’s Symposium. Now that I’m older, the poignancy of both stories is still there but as an adult I feel it’s something of a cheat: “true” love takes a hell of a lot of work and in many cases fails. Anyway, good to hear from you and all the best, Mike

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  2. I suppose we’ll have to disagree. It’s true there’s nothing of the sheer hard work of maintaining relationships over time, let alone the pain of parting, but as depictions of the experience of falling in love – of 1st love, this novel – in words, and this film – in words (and because nothing can match Alain Fournier’s enchanting vision of childhood and love in the Fete Etrange) editing, music and performances in the film) these two works of art, in their respective media – are unsurpassed

    Best wishes to you also,

    Liked by 1 person

    • No disagreement intended. Just an observation after 30+ years. Have you ever read Turgenev’s “First Love”? Another good book about nascent romantic relationships.

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  3. I have indeed read the Turgenev – if also some 30+ years ago, but beautiful though the depiction of Zinaida was, it was a relatively “external” experience, by someone who it seems, as I remember, cannot believe his luck – though I’ll have to check tonight. Meaulnes’s magical experience is set amongst the similarly beloved, and irretrievable, happiness of Fournier’s childhood. similarly the first sight of Melody in the dance class (possibly even better portrayed than the first sight of Yvonne de Galais in the book thanks to the music and editing of the film’s scene, is set amongst the perfectly rendered family and school setting – much of it based on Alan Parker’s own childhood. The initially cautious reaction of Melody to Daniel’s akward attempts to get closer to her (“you’ve been going round telling peopole you love me – I don’t mind it, but they laugh at you don’t they…” she says later) again brings to mind Juliet and her iinitial reaction to her Romeo’s flights of verbal excess on the balcony. Falling in Love – in adolescence at least – has never been done better, largely in the film’s, wisely, almos wordless courship scenes. If I go on more about the film more than the novel, its because it doesn’t have the classic status, I at least think it deserves.

    Regards

    Mike

    Liked by 1 person

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