03 March 2009


Another assignment from my student, Closer is a very subtle contemplation on modern-day relationships. The film centres around the lives of four characters who are somehow lost and confused in a contemporary urban setting of London.

The film doesn't offer a complete beginning and ending. We realise that the beginning is elsewhere: Alice escapes from a breakup in New York and Dan is seeing Ruth at the beginning of the film. Then time flies and Dan finds himself head over heel in love with Anna, a beautiful photographer. Then Larry a dermatologist steps in. He is married to Anna, who uses this marriage to stop her obsession with Dan.

However, as time flies, she realises that her love for Dan is greater and wants to leave Larry, who proposes that they have sex before he signs divorce papers. Alice is likewise dumped by Dan and returns to her career in a strip club. Then we see another twist where Anna chooses to go back to Larry. Heartbroken Dan has no choice but to go back to Alice, who spurns him and returns to New York.

I know this is more like a summary than an analysis, but somehow the twist and turn of the whole film shows how complex and subtle human emotions are, especially when they concern love. In this case, love is not just a pure emotion caused by a single impression, like when Dan sees Alice for the first time. Later on, we gradually come to realise that there is something darker and more sinister to love. The errie scene is the ending whereby we see Anna going to sleep with Larry next to her. She doesn't seem to be happy but perhaps it's all there is for the modern-day matrimony. There's definitely something like acceptance of imperfection and compromise, where she decides to settle for someone she's not really in love but someone who will give her less headache.

When I come to think about this, perhaps Anna represents those who choose not to dwell too much in love as love means investment, expectation and pain. She chooses not to go on with Dan because perhaps she knows she loves him too much and she'll invest too much in him emotionally. One can say that she's a coward. But isn't Dan also a coward, choosing to return to Alice even though he knows perfectly well that he prefers Anna. By going back to Alice, we see how cowardly and insecure Dan can be, susceptible not only to his own needs but also to Larry's powerful storytelling that plays upon his lack of confidence and trust.

Alice emerges victoriously in this film, especially at the end when she can simply say to Dan that she no longer wants him, simply because she doesn't trust him. But of course she's not innocent to begin with. She doesn't tell her real name to Dan when they seem to fall in love at first sight. But she chooses to tell her real name 'Jane Jones' to Larry in a strip club, a setting full of deception and guiles. Alice is a good example of how we in the modern day are very much used to lying and manipulating, so much so that we can no longer separate between truth and fiction. But in Alice's case we can probably say that lying and manipulation are part of her self-defence mechanism she uses to protect herself from the cruel outside world and shitty men.

So perhaps the film boils down to this: who do you choose to be, Anna or Alice? Anna, faithful to herself, yet chooses to run away from real love. Or Alice, prone to lying and manipulation, leads a solitary life and never settles for anything less.