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Tuesday, February 15, 2011
We Love...Gone With the Wind from Film Ireland
Gone With the Wind is a film that divides people of our generation. In some ways its enduring fame has worked to its detriment. It is emblematic of the Golden Age of Hollywood and stands up as one of the most successful blockbusters of all time (apparently if inflation is taken into account its still the highest grossing film of all time). However, because it is so widely known and much-parodied everybody feels like they have seen it. But how many people under 30 really have? Or, should I ask, how many people have given it the attention it deserves? We’re all guilty of claiming to have seen a film when in reality it played in the background on the telly while we were engaged in conversation, or doing a bit of cleaning. I think that Gone With the Wind is a film that has suffered a lot from this. Nobody forgets its feisty heroine, its lush visuals or its beautiful score but maybe people are forgetting what a truly beautiful romance is at the heart of it. With its daunting running time and the fact that you probably feel like you’ve already seen it, why give over nearly four hours of your life to this antique? Well, this Valentine’s Day perhaps you should make it your business to spend your afternoon in the company of the fieriest, most frustrating, most engaging cinematic couple of all time.
What is it about Rhett Butler? Gone With the Wind has been around for seventy years and still the very utterance of his name stands for what masculinity should truly be. The enduring popularity of this character says a lot about what women want in a man. Someone who will love them unconditionally but isn’t afraid to call them out when they’re acting like a child; someone who will fawn over their offspring; someone who is outrageously handsome and it helps that he has a stubborn integrity that will not be wavered. Here is a man who stands up for what he believes in, despite ruffling feathers to do so. Rhett Butler, if Carlsberg made romantic heroes…
It is difficult to summarise Gone With the Wind, and in summary it lacks much of the punch that the story holds in actuality. The sense of frustration audiences feel at this couple who obviously love each other but cannot be happy together still resonates today, despite the films ripe old age. There has been a recent resurgence in “doomed couples” films like 500 Days of Summer, Revolutionary Road and Blue Valentine. The appeal of films such as these is the grand tragedy of the fact that these couples just couldn’t make it work, despite loving each other deeply and genuinely. There are few tragedies more simple and relatable than that. Rhett and Scarlett’s relationship was a prime example of this dynamic. They love each other; it’s complicated in many ways but simple at its core. These are two people who understand each other and respect each others’ inherent flaws but whose sense of pride and individuality, not to mention stubbornness leads to their demise.
The breakdown of a marriage is a messy business and here it is displayed in beautiful Technicolour and explored in quite a profound way, disguised by a lush veneer of glamour and artifice. Give it a chance, you might just find yourself feeling profoundly moved.