The Opposite of Love
“What is Love?”
Man has pondered over this question for millennia, most describing it as the quintessential emotion that makes us human. Dictionaries say it is an “intense feeling of deep affection”. And Bollywood says it is the driving force behind what causes you to prance aimlessly around trees, chasing the object of your affection.
And yet… after all these years – no one, and I repeat no one – has quite managed to capture the emotion, like Mr Andrey Zvyagintsev has with this movie.
“Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.”
– Hamlet (William Shakespeare)
Nelyubov – or Loveless as it is known in English – is a movie about true insignificance. The feeling of being utterly and absolutely devoid of leaving any impression on the world. It is a narrative of adults, in a world revolving around children. A tiny glimpse at an arrogant present destroying an unassuming future. And it does all this in ways that are as subtle in whispered conversation, as they are loud in fits of shouting rage – all coming together. Piece by piece. to paint beautiful moments of cinematic conflict.
But if it was the concept that set the stage for a brilliant 2 hours of an excruciatingly detailed depiction of naked indifference, it is the overarching plot of the movie that really brings the play to life.
“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
– Mother Teresa
ACT 1: SCENE 1 – “Stereotypes, what’s that?”
THE LORD OF STEREOTYPES: Lo and Behold, I hereby decree that all movies about love have a couple that fights and gets together eventually – thereby recognising the true meaning of love.
BADASS DIRECTOR : Screw you, Mum and Dad are getting a divorce – and they’ve already found their new (way-better-than-before) halves and errr… they’re going to hide all that from their kid. HA HA – how’s that for real love eh? Oh – and their kid finds out anyway – and suddenly turns up missing one day. YEAH!
THE LORD OF STEREOTYPES: Err… okay but I uh… I hereby decree that they’ll get their kid back and end up living happily ever after with their rekindled relationship cause err – you can’t violate the SACRED LAW OF ROMANTIC MOVIES.
STILL BADASS DIRECTOR : Nope. Nuh uh. Nada. The next thing you know, the kid goes missing, the couple is still estranged, their new significant others are super supportive – and the world carries on unperturbed as the hunt for their child begins.
THE LORD OF STEREOTYPES: WHY THE F- WOULD YOU DO THAT?!!! That’s just sick and twisted and NO ONE could be that evil or without a soul or –
(Enter Badass Director who walks to the black board in the centre and writes – “Movie Title – LOVELESS”, and exits. Audience applauds, curtains fall. Credits roll.)
“Love is the chain whereby to bind a child to its parents.”
– Abraham Lincoln
If you’re wondering why I called the Director “Badass” at the risk of sounding like an American teen with lesser than average linguistics, I must admit that I was incapable of finding another term that resonated with his pure badass-ery. Thing is, I was privileged enough to have encountered another one of his great movies before. It was called “Vozvrashchenie” (“The Return”), and was painfully beautiful in the most meaningful way. I had never before watched a movie quite like it, and that film continues to remain one of my all-time favourites. Fast forward to 2014, and another one of his movies called “Leviathan” gets an Oscar nomination in the best foreign language category. And if both these movies still don’t cut it for you, then I can declare with absolute certainty that “Nelyubov” will have to seal the deal.
Unless of course you’re the kind of person that thinks the latest Fast and Furious movie was in fact worthy of being called – well, “a movie”. And if you think Will Smith deserved the Academy Award for “After Earth” instead of Daniel Day Lewis for “Lincoln”. But terrible movie forceful boasts aside, if you really want to understand what “Loveless” feels like – imagine a perfect amalgamation of “Vozvrashchenie”, Ben Affleck’s “Gone Baby Gone” and Anurag Kashyap’s “Ugly”. And after you’ve managed to craft that convoluted picture in your head, carefully sprinkle a heavy dose of overbearing blandness to the film interposed with couple-yelling contests – and you’re finally getting a gist of what the movie feels like.
“The opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference.”
– Elie Wiesel
There are scenes of extreme disaffection, performed with a realistic streak so accurate, it’s almost scary. As a testament to how relatable the movie is, feelings of supreme guilt are unavoidable – it will fill you with memories of the collateral damage of our love flooding our heads with regret.
And if all that wasn’t enough, we have background scores by Evgueni Galperine & Sacha Galperine that are hauntingly poetic till the end – with a special mention for one that I really loved called “11 Cycles of E” – all screaming sadness and dread– rising in a crescendo until they hit the peak of an emotion you cannot hold back. Imagine the voices of kids playing in the background – a sound traditionally associated with pure innocent joy – used in the complete opposite perspective in the movie, moving you to painful tears. Imagine human beings howling – like wolves in a search party, both resolute and shaky in equal measure.
And then try to fathom how you can squeeze all that sonorous glory into a movie, and still manage to – sort of – ‘complement’ the weather and the terrain of the environment as well, all working together in striking unison to remind you of the consequence of a “Loveless” life.
I can go on and on about how immaculate a picture Zvyagintsev has painted for us – but that would be me assuming you’re not going to watch it. And I want to believe a movie so poignantly beautiful will not go unnoticed by those who still have faith in good films, especially if the world is to survive another onslaught of Fast and Furious movies.
There are stairs. Depressing, ordinary. A boy wearing a red jacket walks down as the camera moves in to follow. But the boy is quick. And the camera lingers, just a second longer than necessary. You want to follow – but you’re held back in frustration as the boy descends deeper into the stairwell. You wait for the cut, the follow up.
Where is he going?
Why won’t you tell me?
And you look up, at a tree with a mass of crisscrossing branches, stretching across the sky. Reaching out. Empty. Bare.
“How could this have happened, that you should sing to me about Love, and it always comes to pain and disappointment.”
– Nelyubov (Loveless).