January 30, 2013
Here we are: we are deep in winter. In these last few days of January, there’s little to look forward to. Spring is years away; even St. Patrick’s Day feels like years away. It is cold and night comes early. Weeks are dragging on. Things are dark.
All that looms before us, holiday-wise, is Valentine’s Day. And although I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day, I do have a movie to suggest to you, no matter where you’re at romantically. If you’re feeling winter-y, buried under months of cold, and in need of some heart warmth, I suggest you watch Harold and Maude.
Harold and Maude: a 1971 flop that became a cult classic. A May-December romance to the highest degree. A black comedy that slowly swells with light and the magic of Cat Stevens. It’s a beautiful movie, guys, and a solid reminder that spring – or a brighter moment in life – will come. In anticipation of warmer days, walk with me through 5 beautiful moments in Harold and Maude.
Harold’s First Smile
The movie begins by showing Harold’s multiple and myriad staged suicides. First, he hangs himself – his mother, upon finding him, says simply, “Now Harold, I suppose you think that’s VERY funny.” Then, he covers himself in fake blood in the bathtub, and pretends to drown himself in the pool, all for the benefit – “well, I wouldn’t say benefit,” says Harold – of his mother. We never see him smile, or look anything other than utterly lost.
But Harold loves to go to funerals, and it is at a funeral that he meets Maude, a nearly 80-year old woman who also spends her time funeral crashing. The first time they meet, Maude proclaims that they will be great friends. And when they meet for the second time, at another funeral, the friendship begins. As they talk, we see Harold’s first smile – it’s a tiny window into some lurking hope for happiness.
Maude At The Piano
Maude takes the Cat Stevens soundtrack into her own hands here, sitting at the piano, and the friendship grows. Harold is just a boy who’s never gotten his footing in this world, or found a way of living that appeals to him. In this scene, he starts to understand that living fully is attainable; that, in fact, a version of being really alive is right there in front of him.
The Flower Scene
In this scene, Maude articulates Harold’s problem exactly: he is this, but has always been treated as that. And he’s never had the tools to see it!
The Most Wonderful Day
This is my favorite scene. Harold and Maude lie in the grass; they do somersaults and yell and run around. It’s incredibly simple, but it really is a picture of what is good in life, what is really good and worth doing. They are like children here, 20-something Harold and 79-year old Maude. Children who have both known a lot of sadness but still want to play.
So it ends with death and then with life, of course. Harold, having been brought to life by Maude, now says goodbye to her and continues to live.
Spring will come eventually, kids. There are lots of fields to run through, and there is great music to play, and there are people to meet. There are a million ways to be!
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