Purpose and Implication
Shaking Things Up:
Harold and Maude

         Film can entertain. Film can scare. Film can make you laugh. Film can make you cry. Surprisingly enough, film can also say something; say something loud and say something important. It can challenge and degrade and question authority. It can ask, “Why does it have to be this way?”

         There is an unknown number of films about love and relationships: good ones, bad ones, multiple ones, one with more than two participants. Everything you can imagine a film has been about it—but what about Taboo?: a taboo relationship, something that just cannot happen, at least in our minds because of our social norms. But what if it did happen--what would you say?

         Harold and Maude, directed by Colin Higgins in 1971, explores the possibility that a young man can fall in love with an older woman (Ruth Gordon). Harold (Bud Cort) is lost, forced to search out a wife or a girlfriend. His mother brings home girl after girl. To his mom dismay he actually finds one…she just happens to be old enough to be his grandmother.

         Sounds sick; does it not? The premise is disturbing. But could it happen? Many people associate a relationship with sex. And sex with someone twice or three times your age is gross to think about. Harold and Maude’s relationship was not based on lust or any sexual attraction. It was an appreciation for one another, a love of companionship, a deep friendship. People say love is blind. That is exemplified in this movie. Throughout the progression the couple became intimate. People were shocked. But, it asked the question, “Is this o.k.?” Most might not think so, but Harold did what his mother and everyone else wanted: to find a companion. In the end Maude dies, leaving Harold lonely. But did she? Can a friendship die? Maude helped Harold throughout a rough time in his life. The end credits roll on the film, and you are left with an appreciation for her. The idea of them having sex might be disturbing but, the fact that they fell in love? Love is blind and can hit you at any moment. They cared about each other; and they helped each other; in essence they complemented each other.

         The movie simply represented an issue about a relationship that is taboo. Going in, many had preconceptions about what they felt was right or not. Maybe by the end of the movie their opinion had not changed. But, chances are they would have thought about it afterward. It left them with a question to challenge their own beliefs, and that is what movies should also be about--not just to entertain and make laugh--but to make you think. Bravo to this movie, maybe there be more movies like it.

A. J. Casey

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