45 years… that’s a dauntingly long time of togetherness especially when you have spent it with someone in closest proximity say marriage. When you have literally grown old together loving, bickering and depending on each other. When you are planning to celebrate your 45th wedding anniversary. Then a letter arrives bearing news of someone you knew more than 45 years ago. The letter ruffles you up in subtle yet discordant ways, challenging your sensibilities between the past and the present. This is the premise of a beautiful movie titled “45 years”. A very nuanced, restrained and skilled depiction of how emotions and relationships can betray our prudence and poise. And this betrayal cuts through uncomfortable conversations.
The most fantastic thing about life is its unpredictability, the surprise of people, places and moments. You just chance upon meeting someone not knowing that they might colour the entire canvas of your life absolutely differently. You meet them and part from them but they never leave. You move on in life but they stay surreptitiously forever in a corner of your being etched in those few moments. And that’s exactly what the husband goes through in the film; his deepest memories of her and their time together 45 years earlier come to the surface from the depths of his soul which he didn’t think still existed. Those faded memories in sepia colours suddenly look bright tugging at his heart and gnawing his wife’s.
The very underlying emotion in the movie as in real life is that people are genuinely happy and in love with their spouses. But there might be some profound and hidden feelings tucked away in their heart for that special person they met in the journey long ago. No spouse can be expected to understand this sort of duality if I may say that, not even a spouse of 45 happy years. And as expected the wife snaps under the weight of her husband’s lingering romance. It’s of course understandable that any spouse be offended or hurt to find that your partner hasn’t gotten over someone in all those years while professing his love for you. (I have continued using the pronoun ‘he’ for lucidity and generalization)
But a little shift in perspective might be introspective here. The spouse with his lingering past doesn’t clearly intend upon cheating his partner so to speak. There is no physicality of the person involved here or its desire. And there are absolutely no promiscuous yearnings but a much unblemished connection which refuses to die. The person doesn’t make efforts to remember those moments, but they are simply unforgettable. He doesn’t hover around those memories constantly just cherishes them in some hidden crevices of his life. And while all this is true for him, the greater truth is his spouse whom he loves honestly and respects immensely. A spouse who is indispensable in his life and is the one to share his every victory and fall. His feelings for both his past and his present are true but very distinct. They do not overlap or intersect.
But you might say it is still a transgression of a sacred relationship. Yes it is. But is it blasphemous. Maybe not. Feelings are a language of the heart and soul. They come naturally in currents of love, affection and admiration and no matter how strong and rational his mind is it cannot restrain the flow. He can very well deny it to the world but cannot cower from it himself. It would be extremely self defeating. However, the intellect knows that life is played by certain rules and when we stretch the rules too far, it is a game changer. And nobody wants a game changer. All he wants is to cherish that inexplicable yet extraordinary and immaculate bond while he lives and celebrates his beautiful life with a wonderful spouse.
It is complicated, incomprehensible but it is true for some. And they are not looking for validation, in fact they are wary of being judged, they only want that their precious connection with the past not be ruptured as a threat to their present.