Instead of doing the lauded eight chapters of reading I had thought I would accomplish on this flight back to the US, I managed to start Miles Davis’ autobiography and watch the movie, Call Me by Your Name. I’m trying to devote some time away from writing about philosophy with this post, so hopefully this is a nice, refreshing embodiment of such.
The following writing is quite simply a stream of consciousness, trying to sort out my thoughts from the film. I’m going to leave out an explanation of the film and leave anyone who hasn’t watched the film to watch it if they want context. I also wasn’t sure what the limit was in terms of what sort of thoughts I’m meant to share on this blog, but I feel so moved by this film that I don’t think I can refrain from posting my thoughts. Professionalism or not, people still have feelings, irregardless of the formality of the situation, it’s just how much we choose to let the feelings through to others depending on the setting.
I guess I just feel stunned, unable to think about anything but the raw emotion that I couldn’t shake after the film had ended. Just this empty feeling, to know that someone you have loved deeply, perhaps not out of choice, but out of nature, simply may never find their way back into your life again. That thought is terrifying, a stunning thought for which I have no words. It’s this romanticism that I think I despise, yet can’t help from digging into the very heart of the pain.
Trying to understanding a love so deep that one just simply cannot ignore… it’s that kind of love that just bubbles up from inside, that you only feel after learning how to pay attention to yourself. And in listening to only oneself, there isn’t a space for what others are telling you to be, or who to love.
Many a time, when facing the sort of shunning, outcasting, ignoring, or non-celebration of non-heteronormative ways of being, we ask, “Why?” – Why is it so that anybody who doesn’t ascribe to what was ‘traditionally’ (and even today) a norm in society is simply not given the proper respect they deserve like anyone else? However, I think asking “Why is this [social norm] so?” is simply regarding this norm as a norm that exists and will continue to exist. Instead of asking why must one face the undeserved social struggles of holding any sort of non-heteronormativity (being gay, lesbian, bi, or another), why not just just act, just be, in a state that holds no judgement, but more importantly holds no regard for current social norms, ’norms’ whose end goal is ironically creating a non-normal elite?
(When I say ‘norm’, I am by no means justifying the norm, rather my ‘norm’ here refers to a strict heteronormativity that is not inclusive of non-heteronormative ways of being.)
This conversation aside, Call Me by Your Name was a film about love, about heartbreak, about a story that can be felt and told and known by Elio, by Oliver. I recognise this story as a love story. I would think that this film would be regarded as a gay love film, because this is such a strong strain through the film and is so beautifully portrayed. Yet at the same time I don’t think this means that we need to create a category of ‘gay love’ that is different than ‘heteronormative love.’ The fact that I have to reason about gay love versus heteronormative love may seem quite angering (and it is), as it is obvious to many that love is love, no matter who the love is between. However, this sort of obviousness is not present in much thought within our society, and I think a film like this that rips emotions out of me, regardless of whatever story is being told, needs to be regarded as a beautifully nuanced and worthy film to watch by so many.
I’m a bit unsure of what to think of the end of this film. We don’t know who Oliver got engaged to, but to the best of my interpretation, he seemed to be engaged to a woman, as he remarked about how irate his dad would be if he knew what sort of relationship Oliver had been in that summer. If he was engaged to a woman, it does hurt just a bit more to know that after this whole struggle of learning who one is, who one wants to be, and the risked that one took to get there, is left in a state of pain and desire.
Regardless, the film made me engage with raw feelings that drew up so much of what I’ve managed to push down deep enough to perhaps not engage with until now. Some lines I wrote, immediately post-film:
What’s just happened?
To avoid feeling anything
For the sake of feeling nothing
What kind of foolery is this?
Whatever feeling runs down my spine
I do not know
A warm cold that I have never
Come to know.
Stunned, is all I feel.
The romanticism of living in an old, European,
With one you love.
He never said he loved him,
Merely addressed him by his own name.
Such an action intertwines the Lovers
With means of language and presence,
But also with means of self.
Sharing the self, calling the other
By the self.
(One should know that I’m not trying to make generalisations here. We have a duty to understand anyone’s situation for what it is, not how it applies to a certain mode of thought or a mode of being. Ultimately, and in the end, someone’s mode of being is determined solely by them, the singular human, and that cannot be changed by someone outside of the self who is making that decision.)