Wednesday, 14 March 2012

I'm In Love With Colin Clark

The characters "Marylin Monroe" and "Colin Clark" in the
film My Week with Marylin (2011).
A friend was recently rather disturbed when I told him that while watching the film My Week with Marilyn (2011) I was quite taken with the character Colin Clark, played by 30 year old actor Eddie Redmayne. The exact wording I used were more in the lines of “in love with”. I'm often “in love with” characters from both books and films, and to me this is nothing strange—apparently my blasé throwing around of the phrase “in love with” is rather unusual and, it is assumed, says something about my sexuality. I don't think I agree, but more on that a little later.

Possibly the first character I was “in love with” was Heidi the Swiss fictional character. As a very young boy I imagined her being my girlfriend. The first time I really used the term “in love with” to describe my enchantment with a character was for the character Jennifer Burrows, played by Claire Forlani, in the film Boys and Girls (2000). It's not a particularly great film—a romantic comedy about unlikely friends turned lovers, but for some reason that character just tremendously resonated with me. The feeling of being “in love with” Jennifer Burrows was so strong that it felt like I was walking on clouds when I left the cinema. Since then, I've expressed being enamoured with a particular character as being “in love with” the character. I've used the expression in even broader situations too and for different things: towards new friends, towards a beautiful scene, towards kittens.

Monica Bellucci
The problem with “in love with” is that people usually assume that it is a sexual expression, when, in fact, to be in love has little to do with sex. When I see Monica Bellucci—or even just think of her—I feel a flush of warmth through my body. Any further contemplation on this goddess and my heart quickens and blood pulses in anticipation. It is quite obvious what this reaction is: lust. I am not in love with Monica Bellucci. Yes, I think she is one of the most beautiful, most sexy beings alive, yet my reaction towards her is very superficial, very primal. A mere behaviouristic physical response that many men have towards voluptuous women. She embodies sexual desire.

Claire Forlani in
Boys and Girls
This response is quite different from the one I have after I watched Claire Forlani in the film Boys and Girls. I also think that Claire Forlani is gorgeous, but my being “in love with” her was not triggered by her beauty, but by the character—Jennifer—that she portrayed. I know this because I saw Claire Forlani two years earlier in another film, Meet Joe Black (1998), where she was cast as the character Susan Parrish. Jennifer Burrows I wanted to marry on the spot, while I had no such silly thoughts towards Susan Parrish.

C. S. Lewis supports my distinction between “in love with” and lust. In his explication on this topic in his book The Four Loves, he differentiates between Eros and Venus. He argues that sexuality (Venus) may operate without Eros (“being in love”) or as part of Eros. While the state of Venus is purely sexual (which I merely refer to as “lust”), Eros is “simply a delightful pre-occupation with the Beloved”. He continues to explain that:

“A man in this state really hasn't the leisure to think of sex. He is too busy thinking of a person. The fact that she is a woman is far less important than the fact that she is herself. He is full of desire, but the desire may not be sexually toned.”

Concerning Venus, Lewis argues that the focus is on “it, the thing [sex] in itself” while “Eros wants the Beloved.”

So I agree; there is a difference between being in love and lusting. The former is not by default sexual; while the latter does not necessarily mean that there is anything more to it than just sex. Hearts are too often broken because to the one their relation meant something profound and beautiful, while to the other the companion was merely a vehicle for “the thing in itself”.

And so when I am “in love with” women or sometimes men, with fictional characters on pages in books or as projections on screens, with new friends, with kittens, even with sexy cars, it is seldom—if ever—sexual. “A man in this state really hasn't the leisure to think of sex,” for one is too delightfully pre-occupied with the object in her or his or its totality.

It has been weeks since I watched My Week with Marylin and Eddie Redmayne as Colin Clark; and as is the case with both “in love with” and lust, they both pass.

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