Call me by your Name (2017) and Maurice (1989)
Throughout the course of the class when learning about the influences of films and social media on society, it is clear that behaviors and rules are learned through them. The more we conceptualize how “art is a reflection of the society that created it”, the easier it is to understand what the changes say about the time it was created. In the two films, Call Me By Your Name (2017) and Maurice (1989), the dynamic of the two couples are examined based on the portrayal of homosexuality and how it is perceived by the audience versus the characters in the films. Throughout both films, the couples love is tested by outside forces that impels the characters to make decisions based on either love or fear. In Call Me By Your Name, the main characters, Elio and Oliver discover their awakening desire over the course of the summer of 1983. Yet when the summer comes to an end, the romance that alters their lives forever comes to a halt as well. In the film Maurice, the main character Clive confesses his sexual attraction to Maurice where both embark on a chaste yet passionate affair. While both films represent homosexuality, Call Me By Your Name focuses on much more than their sexual orientation meanwhile Maurice plays out the “forbidden love” story between the two characters. Looking deeper into these films, it is clear that the time in which they were released, along with when they take place, reveals how significant their sexual orientation is and why it is relevant today.
In the film Maurice, the story takes place in 1910 where two college students, Maurice Hall and Clive Durham, meet in University. Their desire for each other grows rapidly when Clive reveals his love for Maurice.
Hesitant at first, Maurice scolds Clive for admitting something so controversial at the time. Embarrassed from the initial rejection, Clive says that he is thankful he landed into his hands because “Most men would have reported [him] to the dean or the police” and dismisses his feelings even after Maurice confesses his reciprocated love. But as their trust and love grows immensely, Maurice comes to terms with his sexuality. However, when a close male friend is arrested for six months on “immortality charges” when asking for sexual favors from another man, Clive becomes doubtful towards his relationship with Maurice. In a time when homosexuality is condemned and punishable through imprisonment, Clive understands that their love must be kept in utter secrecy especially since he becomes a legal legislator. While Maurice will passionately and impulsively kiss Clive in front of his mother after fainting, Clive makes sure that they interact at an appropriate distance when with family or friends.
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Clive have being raised in a wealthy family influences him to be very mindful of not jeopardizing not only his own reputation but also his family’s. This film taking place in 1910, it is expected and important for wealthy families to worry what they look like on the outside to avoid being ostracized by judgemental acquaintances. When sitting at the dinner table, Clive’s mother makes it clear that she expects Clive to marry a lady and to live in his inherited mansion. To Maurice, it gives him a reality check of what would come in the future. However, he is not concerned about what could happen and focuses on the fact that he is utterly in love with Clive. After truly discovering his nature, Maurice begins to trust Clive and becomes emotionally invested in their relationship. However, things become shaky and unstable when Clive begins questioning the present and the outcome. When his friend asks Clive to give him a testimonial after being caught with another man, Clive responds by saying that he “must understand that if [he] were to give [him] a testimonial, it would make [him] a sitting duck to any prosecution.” For Clive, his work and reputation comes before looking out for a friend. As soon as Clive realizes the repercussions of being caught with another man, he makes the conscious decision to distance himself from Maurice.
Although Clive certainly does not want to suffer the consequences of going to prison, it is mainly his reputation that he is more concerned about. Clive becomes dry and impersonal towards Maurice which makes the relationship one-sided. It becomes difficult seeing Clive fall out of love because of fear and apprehension. For Maurice to finally discover his identity and to want to share it with someone who is afraid to love them back becomes the biggest downfall in Maurice’s story. Shortly after, Clive announces to Maurice that he is engaged to a woman from Greece. In this way, Clive completely rejects his homosexual side by removing Maurice from his life and finding a wife to fit the ideal mold. Both Maurice and Clive begin altering their lives based on social pressures. Once the separation between both becomes solidified as soon as Clive gets married, Maurice is forced to reject his ideas on finding love in another man. Maurice’s coping mechanism was to receive medical attention being convinced that homosexuality is wrong. Going through these unfortunate and exhausting mental challenges brings to light the detrimental psychology put on to gay people in order for them to feel normal.
Taking place in 1980 somewhere in northern Italy, being openly gay was still very much taboo and unlikely. However, this film solely captures the abiding romance held between both characters. As the audience follows the story through 17 year old, Elios, perspective, the beauty of summer in Italy along with the charm and coolness of the characters allows the audience to submerge into a dream like and romantic storyline. The infatuation towards Oliver, who is an American doctoral student staying in Elios’ family’s summer home, grows subtly but seamlessly. However the focus on their friendship is especially important when recognizing the true admiration of each others presence and duality. Without explicitly saying that they like each other yet, Elio and Oliver are left to understand their own feelings and decide if the relationship is purely platonic. Though, it becomes clear to Elio that he certainly fancies Oliver when his mother begins reading a 16th century french romance about a knight that does not know whether to speak or die when confessing his love to a princess.
Although the theme of secrecy still plays a big role in the film, it was not that they were trying to purposefully hide their relationship from everyone but rather trying to understand if the love was mutual between the two first. When Elio recounts the story to Oliver, he asks if was better to speak or to die. Elio replies by saying that it is better to speak but the knight does not and fudges in which Oliver says “figures, he’s French.” Given that both Elio and Oliver are American, this gives Elio the confidence to express his admiration towards Oliver. It is not surprising when he admits his feelings because it is clear that Elio has never had an issue revealing his interest towards anybody, specifically the girls in the film. His character moves unapologetically and honestly where it would almost seem silly for Elio to suppress his feelings if he is certainly aware of them. Even though Oliver recommends to “not talk about those things”, their love and energy is indisputably undying which is captured throughout the rest of the film.
As their friendship grows more into a romance, they embark on a journey discovering their love and learn to explore a different side than what’s expected in society. Although the romance is present, Oliver is hesitant about being with Elio. It is clear that Oliver does not want to do anything that he would regret so, even after they both kiss, Oliver makes it seem that he only kissed him to satisfy Elios yearning love when in actuality Oliver is reluctant to being openly aware of his emotions. The next day, Oliver is gone for the day and is nowhere to be found by Elio. This brings him to search for another outlet in order to feel wanted and spends the day with another girl. But as frustrated as Elio is about not having Olivers attention, he continues making an effort to fulfill his unquestionable love. Although Oliver and Elio hadn’t spoken for a decent period in the movie, he continues to accept Elios attention even when Oliver chooses to stay guarded.
This encourages both to be vulnerable and honest which allows them to let go of any social pressures. As they fully accept each other as lovers, they are supported and encouraged to be together by Elios parents. When Oliver has to go to Bergamo for a few days to do research at the university, Elios mother suggests that Elio go with him to “get away for a couple of days.” As they hike up the greenest mountains, they scream each other’s name to symbolize freedom and contentedness. Journeying through the city it becomes important for both to be presently together. Fully embracing their true nature and identity, Elio and Oliver are allowed to fully enjoy the remaining time that Oliver has left. But devastated by Olivers departure, Elio is confused now on how to feel and what to do. However when Elio sits with his father, he explains to Elio that “right now [he] may not want to feel anything and maybe [he] never wanted to feel anything…but feel to something [he] obviously did.” This in itself opens new and accepting ideas about what loving someone should look like. He makes it a point that love is blind and to remind Elio to not feel shameful or regretful of something so pure and real.