Closer

Ricardo Lapeira / August 29, 2021

In general, relationships are hard. When it comes to romantic relationships, things can get even harder. Being with someone else can be a wonderful experience, but it can also be one that makes us question the very essence of who we are.

Sharing your most intimate moments with someone else means opening your soul to that special someone. Your fears, ambitions, desires, and everything that makes up your being is, in one way or another, exposed. To do so requires trust in oneself. When this trust is nowhere to be found, love can not flourish. Every time I see the movie Closer I get reminded about the importance of this. 

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This is probably the movie I’ve seen the most in my life, not because I particularly like it, but because there is something that keeps me coming back to it. I guess that its power lies in its ability to remind me about how beautiful and destructive relationships can be.

The Desire to Transgress Our Prisons

Psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm talked in his book The Art of Loving about the human desire to become one with the divine, the desire to leave aside the sense of separateness that oppresses us, even if we are not truly conscious of it. I find this idea particularly interesting as a way to analyze what goes in Closer.

The movie introduces us to 4 characters, each of them very different from the others. Yet, they all become involved in a strange romantic relationship that is constantly fluctuating. Using Fromm’s argument, one can see how the characters are longing for something in each other. More than just company or an alternative to being alone, each of them finds in the other something that comforts them. 

In a way, we may have all been in the same place. Although we sometimes long to free ourselves from the sense of separateness by searching for a special someone, what ends up happening is that we end up being prisoners of the other. The original goal of the relationship is never met, and instead, we become slaves to a happiness that is built on the presence of something outside ourselves. 

In order to get near someone, it is necessary to build bridges that help us escape the prisons built by ourselves. Otherwise, we face the risk of ceding the keys to our prison to someone else. 

Unless we are willing to consciously connect with the other side, nothing new can arise. Yet, this isn’t enough. Paradoxically, in order for a sense of completeness to arise in us, we must also learn to destroy the bridges we build after we come back to ourselves.

The journey of someone who looks for completeness in the other is never complete until one realizes that there is nothing to look for. It is accepting the hard truth that we have been complete all the time.

Our Very Own Prisons

The more I think about it, the more I question why people want to be in relationships. Yes, it is nice to have someone in your life to share it with. However, things can get very messy more often than not.

This does not mean that relationships aren’t worth pursuing. On the contrary, I feel they enrich our lives. But in order to build a solid one that nurtures us, it is important to have a minimum of emotional matureness. Unless one is able to take care of oneself, there is no one who can make our lives better. It is common to see how we look for what we are missing in others instead of looking for it within ourselves.

I get reminded of this every time I see the character interpreted by Jude Law. Although a writer, someone with a creative vibe, he comes off as being childlike, immature about what he expects from others and himself. He is never sure about what he wants, and he ends up generating unwanted emotionally difficult situations for everyone. In short, he is the perfect example of that someone who thinks he is incomplete and that only by finding that special someone will he ever be happy.

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Unlike the other characters, he is constantly unable to cope with his desires. He is never satisfied, always wanting that which he does not have. He is someone who is not able to get a hold of himself because he is not at peace with himself. Unable to look past his prison, he remains incarcerated in his own mind, incapable of genuinely getting close to someone else.

For some reason, I keep coming back to Closer. Each time I watch the movie I learn a bit more about myself and the relationships I’ve been in. Although each has been very different, there is one element that is constant to all of them: me.

As long as I’m unable to get close to myself, I’ll never really be able to get close to someone else. I’m finally starting to realize this. Such a simple truth, and yet so powerful. 

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