In 2007, the Scottish band Travis came out with a song called Closer which had lyrics like “I seek the truth/we set apart/thinking of/a second chance.” I do not know what the inspiration for the song was, but I can surely say that it bore a strong resemblance to the 2004 Mike Nichols-directed Closer, starring Jude Law (Dan), Natalie Portman (Anna), Clive Owen (Larry) and Julia Roberts (Alice).
Closer, adapted from a 1999 play of the same name by Patrick Marber, tells the story of two couples in England and how their lives begin to fall apart once they come to know each other. It may not seem like an innovative storyline, but it should be lauded for the way the story is told. We are just shown snippets into the lives of Dan, Alice, Larry and Anna, flitting across months and even years of their seemingly lovelorn and strife-ridden lives. As one of the plot summaries on iMDB aptly says, “The film … puts the four leading characters in a box and then takes them apart.”
Very few films manage to delve into human relationships and the feelings of love, trust, betrayal as well as Closer do. Closer wants us to embrace the truth, but also asks us to what extent can we do so. The truth hurts, and even destroys as we can see from the film. Two of the characters at different times in the film point out that without the truth, we are just animals. It marks out a characteristic trait of humans who want to be happy and yet want to be familiar with the truth, even though they know that it will mar them, devastate them to a point where life is very difficult to build back, yet is possible.
Closer also reminded me of Derek Cianfrance’s 2010 Ryan Gosling (Dean) and Michelle Williams (Cindy)-starrer Blue Valentine. Blue Valentine chronicled the disintegration of a marriage in a raw and tender manner, such as was rarely seen before. Blue Valentine, with regards its treatment, was opposite to Closer; we got to see the most intimate moments of Dean and Cindy, when they were puppy-eyed lovers, in love, in hate, when they fought, when they were distraught, and when they separated too: when there was nothing left but fireworks.
Both the films were also immensely helped by brilliant soundtracks. Grizzly Bear scored Blue Valentine; their folk rock background giving a boost to the realistic texture of the film. Everyone will agree that when Grizzly bear’s Alligator takes over once the surreal end credits begin, you can’t help but shed a tear. Another telling scene is the one when Dean plays the ukulele and gets Cindy to dance to his imperfect, yet beautiful singing. The film, too, is like that.
Closer, on the other hand, has one of the most memorable opening scenes. It may be a clichéd shot in cinema, but once again kudos to Mike Nichols for shooting it that way; it still stands out, also thanks due to Damien Rice’s fluent voice over his acoustic guitar. The remainder of the film uses a lot of classical music, Mozart is in demand here. Check out the sex chat scene set to Mozart; I think it was cinematic brilliance.
In the end, both are different films, yet have a similar core. RMJ’s co-writer Shubhra Rishi suggests that Candy is another film that is similar to these. These are not films that one can view every now and then, regularly. But these are films that one cherishes, it grows on you. And unlike the end of these two films where, coincidentally, a character walks away into oblivion, they will cement themselves in the closeness of your heart.
Written by Runcil Rebello.