The reason we cry is because there is a hole so deeply embedded in our hearts that is not, perhaps never filled, no matter how much love we have in our lives. We have this hole because the love that the lovers share is a love we want and most often do not have. It is a love that some would say exists only in Hollywood. The movie kind of love represents the ideal to which we all strive but, like Excalibur, can perhaps never reach. It may be attainable only in the form of the search for it. Even if it is so, we want it nonetheless.
The reason we cry when we see these movies is because our hearts get overwhelmed with simultaneous sadness and joy.
The reason we cry is because the love that the lovers share serves both to point out how deep is our anguish and how seemingly near is the ability to fill it up. It may be around the corner, down the street or at the popcorn counter.
We cry because what we see on the screen is both impossible and possible at the same time.
We cry because we do not have what they have and because they have what we do not.
Modern American movies are written the way we would like our lives to run. This is the reason we relate to these movies even if we are not aware of their internal structure. They take us back to the roots of drama which is almost innate. We feel the pacing of the movie as we feel the pacing in our lives. If you understand the story structure of these movies, it runs something like this:
It is a 95-110 minute, 3 act play. In the first act, the 2 lovers either (a) hate each other, (b) don't know each other, (c) are involved with or married to others, and/or (d) never intend to be lovers. The first act of our lives is about figuring out who we are and who we want by way of another. Early loves, while very important, are one of the ways in which we refine our character.
At the end of act 1, about 25 minutes into the movie, the lovers "connect." Act 2 is all about their newly found relationships, and how they overcome the obstacles to their love. We root for them as we root for ourselves. We want to find true love, we want to have everything they have.
At the end of act 2, at about 85 minutes, the two lovers break apart. It appears that they have been overwhelmed by the obstacles to true love that the universe has placed in their path. We, like they, are despondent because our dream, for them and for ourselves, seems out of reach. We come to believe that even in Hollywood, such love cannot exist.
Act 3, usually much shorter than the first 2 acts, is about how they find each other again and fulfill the promise of their love.
In our lives, just when we feel our hearts will burst from sadness for love that we have either never had or love that we have had but do not have at that moment,
Just when that moment feels as though it may overcome our abilities to function and that all is lost,
Just at that moment we open ourselves to the possibility that as we stop to pause, as we buy our popcorn for the next movie, we may find that love that has thus far eluded us. Just at that moment we believe that it can happen to all of us and is not limited to Hollywood.
This is our act 3. This is our denouement. This is our resolution. This is when our tears flow ever more fluidly.
At least that is our hope. And we cry because we want more than hope. We cry because we want to believe it is true but we fear it may not be true. We cry because we are lonely and tired and afraid of waiting too much longer
We cry because we want to have it now, at that moment, not later, not around the corner. We want the music to rise in our lives.
We cry because we want our love to be discovered, found, obstacles overcome, and resolved all in 107 minutes, including closing credits.
© 1996 Ivan Hoffman