In the earlier post on Sam Mendes’ compelling cinematic work REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, I had said that here the agency of two people spells the destruction of domestic bliss. I want to add that taken as sojourns of individuality, their wishes to come out of clutches of conformity within a marriage of many years is meant as a joint mission, a collective decision. A pact of togetherness that offsets years of practical wisdom. Watch it to know that selfishness is no yardstick just because they seek change to be happy in their own right and not as subscribed by nimble hands of convention. Ultimately, what they seek is for the family – husband, wife and two kids. “Can’t two people who agreed to spend life together and see each other through thick and thin have the monopoly to gain at least that level of basic freedom?” is the very central question at the heart of this union that we celebrate for its permanence.
This screenplay’s touch of class is that it tells us patiently, positively that when we go for constructive change away from nagging voices and confusions of establishments, we can have a shot at being happy and hence free as individuals and one half of a partnership. Then as a storm brews over when others intrude and hit home, it makes us realize that just a structure made of bricks, mortar and coated with paints and wallpapers that we call home isn’t enough to sustain a family. Each member needs to be committed to this unit in an individual capacity to be stable under its roof and so opinions have to matter and be shared. The pact to not let the world overwhelm us is omitted at the very moment the opposite happens and a false sense of security makes us revert back to the basics. If conformity alone could not produce stability then why not try to make amendments? After all, the innocence of personal reevaluation can hardly make a dent to others who can never lean in and understand the sanctity of this mutual bond, particular to two. The line from Anne Karenina haunts me in relation to this film. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. REVOLUTIONARY ROAD makes it clear. The problem and the solution lies with the two architects of this union – the wife and her better half. If only outside gazes, opinions and murmurs maintained a dignified distance and let them be.
Marriage is no moth balled cocoon and here the ‘casual infidelity’ of a corporate culture practiced by the man( Leo) is juxtaposed with the grist of suburban stagnation for the woman ( Kate). He desperately wants to not mirror the anonymity of his father’s lifelong position and reminisces about the idea of Paris as a gateway to emancipation that he idolized after participating in the second World War. She is a failed actress who wants to connect with him all over again and seek the city of love for an alteration of the everyday that is only bringing them internalized misery. Watch the film to know how Paris is a metaphor and symbol of the way these dreams to innocently stay afoot together in a different, more flexible environment is far from being a radical exception as others in their fold of society deem it to be. So it’s practically society made up of a varied mosaic of personalities that spells trouble for these two. Again, these people, mostly neighbors and colleagues in the workplace, are not at all bad people and the director treats them as kindred who are products of the same society they comprise and are governed by rules previous generations handed them over.
The husband and wife start as youngsters with promises in their eyes and are besotted with a future together. In the immediate Post War era, they inch towards mutual unity but….. The home they adapt as their sanctuary, which is presented in the beginning as a real estate treasure, teems with their moments of joy and grief and the manner in which it is abandoned by the end credits, put on the market, is another stark reminder of the death of picturesque suburbia and the American dream / global dream. As we all know, director Mendes has designed one of the all time great cinematic marvels on both these issues in 1999’s AMERICAN BEAUTY.
REVOLUTIONARY ROAD is brimming, bristling with all these and realism never leaves its purview. The lure of material comforts is another point that leads to our insatiable desires, to the detriment of other more meaningful aspects and nothing could be more truthful to the fabric of the community we occupy . All the points said above will be uncovered when we watch it. It is a worthy take on the novel of the same name by Richard Yates which was a major turning point for post war America. An universally relevant piece of filmmaking that shows how we are imprisoned within ourselves. Hence, it is not a relic of a past era but a timeless meditation befitting our times as well where anxiety is at an all time high in a protracted, muddled world order.
There is so much to take away from this viewing experience and so the final part about REVOLUTIONARY ROAD will accommodate the next post. In the end, I would like to say what I believe about marriage as a crucial point : a bond that begins traditionally with its consummation, a physical amalgamation of bodies and desires legitimized by law, winds up in emotional contention over the years. Which proves that physical partnerships can never overpower disgruntled souls. The heart longs for more than a touch or erotic high. It needs an unsaid, often omnipresent core. I wonder where the economy of those expressions and the simplicity of love go as we move in jerks and huffs through compromises of life.