It has been 15 years since Closer’s release, well, give or take a few months. I was reminded of this movie during my watch of the recent film Untogether, a debut film for director Emma Forrest. It has a very similar premise, with four protagonists trying to weave their way through their complicated lives and relationships. While Untogether is enjoyable, Closer is just on another level of mesmerising. It doesn’t contain a single sex scene, yet it is the sexiest movie I have ever watched, mostly due to the acting chops of the four actors who steer this movie.
The opening sequence alone shows us that we are in for a treat. Mike Nichols begins his film by drawing us in through music, which starts flowing in the moment the Columbia pictures image pops up. Damien Rice’s The Blower’s Daughter feels like a shot of any sort of liquor – it warms and numbs at the same time. Instantly, we are brought closer into the world of these characters, though the irony here is that despite how close we are to them, they are just as closed off to us as a stranger in the street.
Then the visuals begin, perfectly attuned to the music that has preceded it. Alice (Natalie Portman) and Dan (Jude Law) are on sidewalks, at opposite ends of each other, both walking towards the intersection that lies somewhere in between. As they do so, we get closer to them on screen – from specks in the crowd to sharp tangible realities. Portman’s hair is strikingly red, making her stand out in a sea of gray-suited people off to work. The colour choice here is intentional, since her hair is a traditional brown for the rest of the film (with the exception of the pink and blonde wigs she wears when she is stripping). Symbolically, red is the colour of passion, however, it can also represent danger. Her hair feels like a warning sign of sorts, where dangerous times involving the heart await our characters.
They don’t know each other, but their eyes meet, and we get the resounding lyric from Rice – “I can’t take my eyes off you.” They both react to the other’s gaze, and we feel the anticipation of their meeting in the middle, waiting for the moment they come into contact. However, before that can happen, because Alice is distracted (and an American living in England), she looks the wrong way when crossing the street, this act culminating in an accident. The brilliance here is that Law’s face tells the story even before the scene plays out.
As he rushes out to her in the middle of the street, from her limp position on the road, she turns to him and says, “Hello stranger” before blacking out. Law beams at this utterance. We beam too, for this is undeniably an adorable meet-cute. It is also an experience we might have encountered ourselves. Not in such a spectacular way of course, but in smaller doses, like catching the eye of someone on a bus, or sharing a smile with a stranger across the room.
The issue here is the illusiveness of the entire moment. It’s all surface, filled with attraction and possibility. The real stuff comes later, where time brings one closer to another, but all that closeness and knowing can also drive two people apart. It is something both Alice and Dan come to realise in the course of the movie, where their relationship ends as suddenly as it began. Nichols gave us the truth from the very beginning, in Rice’s poignant lyrics. There is “no love, no glory” – no happy ending. Maybe all relationships are filled with a sense of impending doom, and all we have at the end are those brief moments of beauty – a meeting of strangers becoming more, before fading into the swirling dust of time.
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