It could also be easily the shortest in the book, going straight from “Once upon a time…” to “And they all lived happily ever after” without much ado – but as the old saying has it, the path of true love rarely runs smooth, and that’s when we have a story to tell.
Writers have always known this. From Shakespeare to Stan Lee, the theme of forbidden or thwarted love is one of our favourites, because it’s real. Also, as viewers, we want some twists and turns in the tale; “happy ever after” is lovely but if we’re honest, not very interesting to watch. We want to be pulled in to the drama, heart pounding, chest tightening at the suspense – because the love story is very much a suspense story – will they? won’t they? – and even if we know what’s going to happen in the end, it’s the courtship journey that is so delicious. Or painful.
“Casablanca” has been voted many times as the greatest cinematic love story of all, though “Brief Encounter” and “Now Voyager” feature heavily in top ten polls – none of them with a conventional happy ending.
More recently, “Stardust”, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Punch Drunk Love” play knowingly with the audience’s desire to see the protagonists put through their paces before finally falling into each others’ arms…perhaps….
Anyway, back to Shakespeare and one of the most enduring plots of all: “Romeo and Juliet”, the classic story of two lovers from different tribes, who can never be together because of the historic war between their families. “West Side Story” transposes this theme to 1960s America, with ethnic hatred between rival gangs and it’s one of the regular top five films in audience polls about love. The first meeting / falling in love scenes are perfectly pitched but crucially, although they are the central characters, the lovers are only one thread of the story – it’s about being young and horny and full of impossible ideals, hanging out with your friends in hot city streets, waiting for some magic to happen….and it’s a musical! With great tunes, fabulous dancing, and glorious saturated colour to make you forget it’s November and leave you with a sense of having lived an entire, bitter-sweet, love affair from the comfort of your cinema seat.
If you haven’t seen it before, come along! And if you have, come and see it again! We hope you will join us for an old-fashioned matinee performance this Sunday, 25th November at The Void, in the Owen Building at Hallam University. Doors open 1.30, film starts 2pm.