Really? I’m surprised.
Have you never been in love? Have you never been in a long-term relationship?
Yes, I’ve been in love. And I’ve had two long-term relationships, one that lasted nine years and one that is currently in its eleventh year (married my husband a year ago), not that that really has anything to do with it.
I would say that it is more a matter of my never having been a pathetic human doormat to a crackhead that is more the issue here, but well, you know, I’ve never been the Prince of Denmark unable to work up the nerve to kill my fratricidal regicidal uncle either.
The real problem for me, and for the other gay men I saw it with, all of whom have been in love and been in longterm relationships fyi, was that the film never managed to make me/us give a damn about little Eric and little Paul’s rather tritely dysfunctional relationship.
I’m in the 39th year of my LTR and have observed the warp and woof of others — long and short.
Neither I nor my lover are crackheads. But I found a lot about the ups and downs of same-sex romance in the film.
Yeah, there’s a lot about the ups and downs of relationships in the film. What wasn’t there was any particular reason to give a damn about anyone in it. PARTING GLANCES and WEEKEND it ain’t.
Are the film’s insights (such as they are) about relationships/romance only applicable to same-sex relationships/romance? Those problems seemed pretty universal to me — Human Doormat Syndrome and Drug Addiction aren’t exactly exclusive to the gay communities.
“Universality” is a heterosexual con game.
I’m quite fond of both “Parting Glances” and “Weekend” BTW.
Yeah, you mentioned both PARTING GLANCES and WEEKEND in your OP. Fine films, both of them.
Yes, and both deal in different kinds of gay relatioships in different ways. “Keep the Lights On” is yet anohter kind and way.
Look, Roscoe, there’s no way I can get you to like a film that you don’t. All I can do is state my case. I found it very insightful and moving — especially the end where they part without bitterness or recrimination. In that it was remindful of my favorite film “Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train.”
No worries, I didn’t think you were trying to get me to like a film that I don’t. I’ll have to check out THOSE WHO LOVE ME CAN TAKE THE TRAIN.
Interesting that this film hasn’t really sparked much interest round these parts, isn’t it. And I don’t mean that in a vindictive “see, if the movie were better people’d be talking about it” way, just noticing that a highly acclaimed film is getting very little response, pro or con.
That’s becuse strights don’t go to gay movies.
Or rather, having seen “Brokeback Mountain” feel they’ve “done that already.” and don’t need to see anymore.
We in the LBGT community, by contrast, have been FORCED to both watch and respect every straight movie that was ever made.
For what it’s worth, I’m straight and I go to gay movies and film festivals because I love movies, period, and appreciate film-making representing all facets of the human experience.
I got around to watching Keep the Lights On last night – it is a good film indeed, although I’m a little less enthusiastic about it than yourself. Given that this topic has gone untouched in seven months, I’m curious to know whether it has remained your favourite film of last year? I’ve written in direct response to some of your points, but I’ve extended beyond them as a means of discussing more about it, as I’m too lazy and unskilled to properly form a review. Your initial comment is almost a year old, so your memory may be a little rusty by now. I don’t expect you’ll to be able to remember the smaller details or respond to some of the questions, but anything you have to say in contribution would be appreciated! Anyway, here are my thoughts:
it’s a tale of co-dependency and the difficulty of letting go
The latter, definitely, but you mention the co-dependency thing several times in the thread, and I wonder if it’s true. Is to be truly in love with someone ultimately the same as being dependent on them? I’m not sure I’m wise enough to answer that question myself. Like most things, it probably boils down to relativity, but I see no reason for Erik to feel dependent on Paul at all, because, well, what’s to depend on? It’s a one-sided relationship. Erik suffers for Paul and hurts himself in the process, whereas Paul suffers for himself alone, and tears Erik apart with his infirmity, secrecy and deception.
The dependency angle makes more sense from Paul’s perspective, because Erik’s devotion – his emotional support and perseverance – is so incessantly evident. It’s not until Paul’s addiction has drawn them to a mutual, degradative low in the powerful handholding scene you speak of in your opening comment that Erik calls it quits, and no wonder, but he can’t prevent himself from coming back for more. Paul can totally depend on Erik to be there, it seems, and perhaps he exploits this. That said, there are a couple of scenes in the last third which suggest that Paul has failed to acknowledge or register just how intense Erik’s adoration is, but it could just be that he’s speaking impulsively in these moments. When Erik says “I love you” in the closing scene on the street, the tone of Paul’s response of “I wonder. Do you?” is at first understated enough to make you overlook the fact that it’s a savage parting line, when we consider all that Erik’s put into making this relationship work time and again. I think the film portrays Paul as being somewhat more dependent on crack than he is his lover.
Looks are deceiving. Such types manage to “get away with it” for long periods of time, and this story shows how.
Yeah, this is definitely about deception and self-deception, and how this feeds into our ideas of personal identity. Take a look at this closing paragraph of Ed Gonzalez’s (Slant magazine) positive review of the film:
“And the essence of this study of addiction is distilled into one detail: Erik’s obsession with the photograph of a woman who appears haunted in the face, almost as if she’s seen a ghost, though really her agonized reaction resulted from just having missed a train. Paul will strike some two-faced poses throughout Keep the Lights On, one during a dinner in which Erik, in front of a roomful of people, applauds Paul for seeking help for his drug problem. Paul smiles, though you sense he’s more embarrassed than charmed and may use this moment against his lover. Erik doesn’t see the truth behind the mask, not because he’s naïve, but for the same reason the photograph of the woman transfixes him: Like Paul, it tells a beautiful lie.”
I think that’s a beautiful summation. The only interviewee we see before the camera in Erik’s documentary film about Willard Avery talks to him about the relationship between a person’s face and what lies beneath – how they’re visibly linked. Sachs demonstrates an opposite viewpoint, where surfaces are far less sure to be penetrated by the public eye; where the face is a façade, or at least an enigma, bearing complications that one’s physicality has learned to mask all too well. And without objectivity, even the private eye – Erik’s in this instance – will fail to see or accept the truth at close range.
There are key details in the film about what these men feel they have to conceal, and have had to conceal from a very early age, in order to get by, and I wonder: how much of this shame and confusion exists as a direct result of the impressions society in general displays towards homosexuality? Thinking about the film has made me really consider how the hostility or opposition shown towards the very notion of being gay (in many, but of course not all, quarters) could so often heavily complicate and afflict young gay people’s quest for self-definition. Of course, we’re not necessarily always, if ever, registering our experiences as a quest for something as specific as self-definition, but I’m not sure we can actually attain peace without it. Maybe nobody knows who they are, and all ideas of the “self” are simply part of an illusionary state of mind. Whichever way, the fear and dread of exposing oneself is pervasive here (and also channeled through Erik’s filmmaking experiences). In a narrative sense, I think [i]Keep the Lights On[/i] becomes about Erik’s discovering of his identity, and his coming to terms with the gradual loss of another: Paul’s. One of them is trying to escape “the lie”; the other can’t deal without it.
The question that hangs over the entire film is would he have fallen in love with him if he weren’t an addict
I think Erik falls for his sensitive, kind and gentle exterior, and he doesn’t seem to get an empowered kick out of playing the role of the savior, even if Paul perceives this to be Erik’s hand in a power struggle. We first see Erik strongly addressing the drug angle a year into their relationship, and when he speaks of it, he doesn’t sound like it’s something he’s been hammering home in the time they’d spent together leading up to that point. So I don’t think I agree that this is one of the film’s questions.
What’s fascinating is that it covers a ten year period and doesn’t seem to leave anything important out… I found it very insightful…
This is where I see where Roscoe and other non-fans are coming from. Though it is insightful in subtle ways, I don’t think it wholly satisfies the immediate viewing experience in the way it presents this relationship. I’ve found that it has gained most of my admiration in the aftermath of thinking it all through and writing about it here in this post. Its blossomed more in retrospect – the meanings and ideas that aren’t forcefully pressed into the piece have started to shine through the cracks. I definitely enjoyed the immediate experience of watching it, mostly because Thure Lindhart renders Erik with such heartbreaking sensitivity. You really engage with him and his plight – you feel his pain and want the best for him. It’s because of this, I suppose, that I didn’t spend more time wondering how I cared so much, because I thought the relationship dynamic was lacking a fair bit. It kept striking the same chord, closing in on Erik’s desperate attempts to get information out of Paul regarding where he’d been and what he was doing, trying helplessly to guide him away from the path he was perpetually returning to. I wanted to see something else happening in their relationship once in a while, what fell in between the gaps – something a bit more concrete that would make me think ‘okay, I’m actually seeing why this guy is virtually killing himself to turn this broken mess around year after year after year.’ Establishing that he’s deeply in love explains it, of course, but I think a lot of people may be just out of touching distance with Erik’s world, because the thing its centered around is a dimension short.
As gay love stories go this is right up there with Parting Glances, Weekend and Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train
Of those, I’ve only seen Weekend, but I’ll add the other two to my to-see list. Have you seen Taxi zum klo? I bought it ages ago after being told it was a “gay cinema classic,” but I’m still yet to get around to it.
That’s all, sorry for the lengthy read!