On The Lake House and Persuasion
Today I watched The Lake House, the Hollywood version of the Korean Il Mare (or The Unreachable Lover). Honestly I had not too high hopes for it, it being inevitably a Hollywood Blockbuster Romance, and I should do it more justice, now that I had seen it actually, to say that though it cannot be considered an aesthetic achievement it nevertheless is not bad for a little amusement for oneself. The knack of it is not to ask the big questions (such as how scientifically probable the time theory as featured in the film can be) but enjoy the little twists and turns of the plot and psychology of the characters. The little cunnings exploited in the film were delightful if not amusing, and yet to me, the moment came when Jane Austen’s Persuasion appeared in the scene and proved itself to be one big (if not a bit of a cliche) metaphor for the film. When Alex (Keanu Reeves) asked Kate (Sandra Bullock) what the novel was about, she hesitated (no wonder she should; it is Jane Austen’s most mature work and can hardly be summarized in one sentence), and said, “It is about waiting.” That is quite precise, if not reductionistic. It touched me to the quick when Kate quoted the line from the novel:
… there could not have been two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no feelings so in unison, no countenances so beloved. (Chapter 8)
And suddenly I remembered that night when we met again after so many years. How I wished the night would never end that we might just sit there talking quietly as if the whole world belonged to us alone. How often does one find a person who align so much in every way one can possibly think of? We are not the outspoken sort, we seldom disclose ourselves to people, and yet it felt almost natural for us to open oneself entirely to the other, knowing the other would be as willing to embrace everything about oneself as one would the other. But alas, what is immediately following that sentence quoted above?
Now they were as strangers; nay, worse than strangers, for they could never become acquainted. It was a perpetual estrangement.
Persuasion in 1818, then The Lake House in 2006. Patience has been rewarded throughout the two centuries, albeit by some poetic justice who likewise, for better or worse, distaste tragic endings. But is patience getting any better for all such publicity on the screen? Patience is beautiful, as the statue in Viola’s speech in Twelfth Night, because she is a virtue, a mere aspiration the ordinary dares not attempt in deed. And so it stays admired in poems and films. And patience is sad, and so all the more beautiful. Aubig asked why the film did not end sadly, for she would much prefer that to the present ending. Perhaps she grasped the beauty of sadness, but not the sorrow of sadness.