Closer (2004) Dir. Mike Nichols
We pass people on the street. Not only do we pass them, but we also pass their smile, thoughts, loves and heartbreaks. Until our eyes meet theirs, like Alice’s (Natalie Portman) and Dan’s (Jude Law), or Larry’s (Clive Owen) and Anna’s (Julia Roberts), we’re just strangers whose paths have crossed.
The driving force of the movie is the dialogue. Words flow and turn into sentences. Sentences into ideas and messages. At times, the dialogues seem pretentious. Then, they come out as true and insightful. Mostly, too much substance is packed in the conversations. The characters are trying to talk each other into love and sex, but they push it too hard with words instead of taking action. They analyze their situation, talk it through as if they were trying to wear each other down.
The characters strike as broken, pathetic, helpless. They can’t make their minds who they want to be with. Their little universe is limited to only four of them. It makes them so co-dependent to the point of pathology. They become hopeless without each other. They switch partners back and forth, but find no satisfaction in doing so. They’re all scared. Their confusion and pain resonate with the viewers. Their relationships could never work because they’re all self-obssessed and delusional.
Dan wants to know the truth because he’s addicted to suffering and the pain and humiliation that comes from it and with it. He’s restless with both Alice and Anna. He appears to find solace only in writing obituaries – there is stability in writing about someone who passed away because it’s a constant. The same goes for Anna, who bounces back and forth between Dan and Larry. She is addicted to being a victim and punishing herself all the time. She lets Larry throw vulgarities in her face. She gives up her self-respect once she leaves Dan (whom she presumably loves) and goes back to Larry (who humiliates her and mentally controls her). Alice, on the other hand, is addicted to the male gaze – she desires to be desired. It brings her satisfaction to be the tease, not even to get a sexual satisfaction, but to provoke it in others. Larry comes across as crude and dominating. He destroys what stands in his path to get what he wants, and he really wants Anna. At some point, we may even suspect he’s the only one truly in love.
Sex is the currency. They use it and desire it. There are no taboos. We’re never shown the images of them having sex, but the picture is right there in front of us all the time. It penetrates the vocabulary, the gestures, the behavior. There is no admiration for the body. Sex is just an excuse to talk about feelings. When Anna owns up to her affair with Dan, Larry asks her all the little details about their sex. She answers obediently, but with each answer she is becoming more vulnerable and exposed.
“Everything is a version of something else.” The movie is a version of a play. The story – a version of life. The characters – a version of real people. The characters experience all life has to offer: love, hate, pain, happiness, relationships and breakups. Just like ours, their universe revolves around feelings. And the rest comes down to a one short euphemism in the obituary.
Long days, pleasant nights,