Sunday, December 16, 2012

Like A Tragic Love Triangle

Lots of drama this week. You know what I'm talking about. I needn't add to the sensationalism already rampant by going into detail. Suffice to say, it was a terrible event that made many a hardened spirit stop in their tracks, followed by a massive out-pour of emotions and debate. I found myself thinking about what happens when, for some reason, passion is incapable of compassion. If I may, a film noir moment unrelated to current events...

Passion, Love and Desire grew up together in a small town. When they were all still young Passion and Desire, who were from different sides of the tracks, hooked up and planned on running away to join the circus. Love was just this weird kid with a runny nose who no one really wanted to hang out with. On the night the young couple were to escape Passion got caught up in events that prevented her from getting away and Desire was left to join the circus by himself. Everything comes to a head years many later when Desire returns to town and learns what has become of Passion and Love.

Passion: Rich and beautiful, Passion began life thinking she would have an easy life full of joy, if only she could get away from her evil aunt. But on the night she and Desire were to escape she inadvertently kills her aunt with her own cane after the aunt attacks her kitten. Love, the son of her tutor, witnesses the event. Passion, worried her life would be over, makes up a story about a stranger in the house and ends up marrying a conspiring, snivelly-faced and inebriated Love to keep him quiet. Time goes on and, without Desire, the intervening years has been like having to watch reruns of television demonstrations for vegetable cutters over and over. Passion slowly loses touch with reality.

Love: Maybe it was because Love was raised being told over and over that he was flawed that he became so. While intelligent and well intentioned, his insecurities made Love desperate and when he witnesses Passion's indiscretion, he offers his silence in return for her hand in marriage. The union is doomed never to be all Love wants it to be. Still, Love holds Passion hostage to his embrace. Because the dirty little secret is all that is keeping the marriage of Passion and Love together, the arrangement simmers like a pot of overdone oxtail soup left on the stove too long, its wine long turned to vinegar.

Desire: Years after leaving and drifting from job to job, Desire returns to town with no knowledge of the train wreck Passion's life with Love has become. Both Passion and Love think Desire knows about their dirty little secret and expect Desire to blackmail them. Passion turns on the charm and Desire goes about trying to figure out whether there's still a spark between Passion and himself, even though she's tied to a weak and drunken Love. Passion, trying to avoid the inevitable, tells him of her wish to leave Love for him. Nobody's fool, Desire figures out that Passion's plan is to have Desire kill Love for her. He ponders the ramifications like a dog torn between a bone at his feet or a whole cow he can smell just around the corner.

On the final night, Desire tricks Passion into confessing her dirty little secret, realizes she is quite mad, refuses to kill Love and wisely leaves both Passion and Love to their fates. Alone in the house, Love and Passion realize their dirty little secret is out of the bag. While Love holds the gun on Passion, Passion reaches down and pulls the trigger herself. Then, with his Passion dead, Love expires in a second flash of light from the library window.

And Desire is left to walk alone into the fog on a dark, rainy night...


Based on the public domain film noir, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, (1946) staring Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin and Kirk Douglas, produced by Hal B. Wallis. Screenplay by Robert Rossen and Robert Riskin. Directed by Lewis Milestone. No disrespect intended.

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