Getting Emotional with Movies, Part 6: Sadness
Get your heart racing with Fear before breaking down into Sadness.
I don’t become sad during movies too often, probably because I tend to avoid tearjerkers and depressing subject matter. Out of all the emotions, sadness is the one I least enjoy experiencing at the cinema. Still, I’m grateful when a genuinely touching film comes along that unclogs all my pent-up sorrows. Kind of how a plumber unclogs one’s pipes. These movies put me in a pleasantly downcast state of mind.
The films I discussed in my Joy article all brightened my mood through the use of music. McCabe & Mrs. Miller also influences my mood musically, but in a more contemplative and melancholy sort of way. Leonard Cohen provides the songs for the McCabe & Mrs. Miller, which add another level of aching beauty to a movie that’s already plenty achingly beautiful on its own. There will never be another western about the business partnership between a pimp/entrepreneur and a drug addicted prostitute that creates a mood so perfectly as this one.
Here are the opening credits from the film. Cohen’s “The Stranger Song” feels like a warm blanket of sadness as McCabe makes his way through the cold wilderness.
The person who uploaded this video chose to show scenes from Clint Eastwood‘s Unforgiven, rather than McCabe & Mrs. Miller. I guess the mood of Unforgiven is similar enough that “Winter Lady” would probably work in that movie, too. And Unforgiven is about prostitutes, as well.
“Sisters of Mercy” is used during one of my favorite moments in the film. McCabe picks up a few “chippies” (prostitutes) to put to work in the mining town of Presbyterian Church. While two of the women joke around, the other meekly sits by herself. As McCabe is about to step out, she innocently says “I have to go to the pot and I don’t think I can hold it.” The song starts playing as McCabe stands there dumbfounded. I’m never sure if I should feel bad for the prostitute or McCabe. Or both. This is the full song with random clips from the film:
I’ve seen the Douglas Sirk film All That Heaven Allows a few times, and consider it one of my favorites. The story involves a well-to-do widow who starts up a love affair with her individualistic, yet sensitive, gardener. This doesn’t sit well with her gossipy, snooty social circle or her two college-aged children. So, for the duration of the movie she must struggle with whether to follow her heart or stick with the life that’s familiar to her. It’s hard to agree with the perspective of her friends and family, since their point of view is based on selfishness and elitism more than anything else. I love this scene in the movie when her kids buy her a television to keep her company, as if that’s a fulfilling substitute for human companionship. (NOTE: This movie came out in the 50’s, when television and technology hadn’t completely taken over our souls yet. Nowadays, I consider my computer and DVD player to be suitable companions.)
While I do sympathize with the widow and her gardener (played by Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson), I wouldn’t say All That Heaven Allows draws out any strong emotions. I enjoy it more in the soap opera sense than as a truly moving dramatic experience. If I really want to feel a surge of sadness, I turn on the Todd Haynes version of the film, Far from Heaven, starring Julianne Moore. Haynes also worked with Moore on the movie Safe, a strange psychological drama that I quite enjoy. But it’s Far From Heaven that really socks it to me on an emotional level.
The conflicts in Far from Heaven are edgier than in Sirk’s film. While there is still a relationship with the gardener, he’s a black man (played by Dennis Haysbert, from the Allstate commercials) this time around. And Moore’s character isn’t a window, but instead married to a gay man (Dennis Quaid) who is desperately trying to conform to his role as a father and husband. Because Far from Heaven is still set in the 50’s, you can probably imagine the problems that arise. In All That Heaven Allows, the conflict revolves around social status more than anything else. Far from Heaven deals with prejudices that were much more difficult to resolve at the time. Which is why it’s so much more heartbreaking to sit through. Maybe the movie does lay it on a little thick with the melodrama, but when Moore is left standing alone at the train station I can’t help but get choked up.
After wiping away your tears, it’s time to get pumped for tomorrow’s movies that inspire Exhilaration.
This post is part of our User Showcase series. You can find Chad as kingofpain on Flickchart. If you’re interested to submit your own story or article describing your thoughts about movies and Flickchart, read our original post for how to become a guest writer here on the Flickchart Blog.