I recently had the pleasure/misfortune of watching the film ‘Closer’ with the ever beautiful Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman, Jude Law and Clive Owen.
On the DVD case it describes it as ‘an uncompromisingly honest look at modern relationships’. Hmmmm, wow, if modern relationships are like they are in this film, that’s a sorry state of affairs. I don’t know that I’d recommend watching it, it’s definitely uncompromising. ‘Crude’ is more like it. Vulgar even?
Yet often, in otherwise distasteful films, there are moments of insight, deeper questions, glimpses of what’s really going on underneath. Underneath our performances, underneath what’s obvious to the sight. Amongst the 100 minutes of Closer were a couple of scenes that hit me straight between the eyes.
If you don’t want to know the outcome of the film, don’t read on!
At one point, Clive Owen has stumbled across Natalie Portman dancing in a strip club. He remembers her as the ex girlfriend of the man (Jude Law) who stole his wife (Julia Roberts). He pays to have a private room with her. On the one hand he wants to find out information about his ex wife, on the other he wants to gain some kind of revenge on Law by having his way with his ex girlfriend.
Portman dances around, strips, bends over provocatively and does everything she’s asked, all the while smiling sweetly. But, she resists every attempt to draw her in to meaningful conversation. Owen sticks ever more money into her skimpy underwear, asking her repeatedly her name. All she replies is ‘Jane’, which he knows is not true. Finally, he looks up at the security cameras in absolute frustration and shouts, ‘what do you have to do to get some intimacy round here?’ Woah. As you watch a screen writhing with seemingly very intimate behaviour, the question reverberates around the room. Knowing her name, being allowed into reality, into the truth of who she is behind the candy smile, that would be real intimacy.
I think the point is rammed home right at the end. Natalie Portman goes back to Jude Law once Julia Roberts has left him (!!), only to realise his ‘love’ is meaningless (“where is this love you talk about? I can’t see it. I can’t feel it. I hear it, these words of yours. But what does it mean?” she says). She disappears back to America. On his way to work one day, Law walks through a park where he had taken Portman the day they first met, and suddenly he sees a plaque on the wall
Portman had told Law that her name was Alice Ayres. Now he realises that all along this was a fake name, one she had quickly read off a wall plaque that first day. You’re left wondering if he ever really knew the real her. A name is so bound up with a person’s true identity. Now she has vanished for good after an ‘intimate’ relationship, was it all a lie? Had they ever really allowed each other into one another’s worlds or just kept each other at arm’s length with false externals? Despite physical closeness had they ever really known the meaning of intimate?