Question for Hollywood filmmakers

Why must virtually every film you produce, even those dealing with important political themes of the zeitgeist, include a romantic story line? In the world as it is presented by you, romance flourishes in war, during genocide, during Armageddon, in outer space, even where one of the bloody lovers is dead. The irony is that when all is well in the world, love seems to go tits-up, with the result that we must sit through ninety minutes or more of a wife bawling and clinging to her absent husband’s suits hanging in the wardrobe, while away in the next scene husband is busy shagging another woman, before both realise through these very different means that that they were destined to be together, it’s just that their love has “matured.” The final scene usually includes: a Labrador/children playing in a sprinkler, and the reunited couple holding hands fondly watching their antics. Decidedly absent is any mention of the fact that the only reason the husband came back is the missus’ first-class lasagne/blowjobs/both.

While I admit that if given a choice between watching a romantic comedy and boiling my head I would in most cases put the water on the stove, I do not object to romance as a genre per se, my objection is its omnipresence. It seems to be the tomato ketchup of film production: added to virtually any dish in order to make palatable otherwise difficult to swallow fare. I am thinking in particular of the film I saw tonight, Blood Diamond. The production and directing of this film was mostly excellent, and it dealt with issues of critical importance, namely the trade in illegal diamonds, the part this trade plays in funding civil wars and the role of foreign governments/mercenaries in this sordid business. The lead was played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who is gradually wringing the last drops of Titanic out of his persona with excellent roles such as these. The female lead was played by the stunning Jennifer Connelly, who played a – guess what! – sexy yet intelligent journalist. When Connelly appeared my heart sank. because the film had until then been going great guns (geddit?) with its realistic and effecting scenes of civil war. Then these two met in the bar, he with his broad shoulders and blood hi-lites, she with her green eyes and well-formed bosoms and I heard the knock knock knock of someone trying to extract ketchup.

More horrific than any of the war scenes was the moment where DiCaprio is preparing to enter war-torn diamond country on a potentially fatal assignment and must leave the intrepid Connelly behind. We are subjected to a five minute dialogue in which he entreats her to settle down with a good man, while she replies that she has three sisters married to good men, and she herself prefers her life of roaming the planet searching for war zones in tank tops. Sorry, but who cares? And why add insult to injury by having Titanic-style pipes playing softly in the background? I was secretly hoping that Celine Dion and her heart which must go on would appear simply so that she would be shot by a rebel warlord.

To go from watching the deaths of countless (anonymous) Sierra Leonians and the forced enlistment of children in rebel armies to this hogwash was almost obscene. While the platonic relationship between the journalist and DiCaprio’s mercenary was integral to the story, the romantic element was entirely superfluous and annoying, particularly given that it almost compromised the film by risking making the civil war merely the background against which their love plays out.

How does it work then? When a script dealing with political intrigue/war etc arrives on a producer’s table, does he tell the script writer “well this looks great Bob, but I want you to go ahead and make the prisoner of conscience fall in love with a feisty gal from Brooklyn, preferably with big knockers”? Is it mandatory, in the same way that in 1999 it was made the law to include Hassan Hosny in the cast of all future Egyptian comedy films?

To be fair, you are merely part of a supply and demand equation, and it would seem that the audience like their war misery pizzas toned down with a bit of romance sauce. How sad however, and what a damning indictment, is the knowledge that for a film to succeed, the misery of an entire country – an entire continent – must be described using the stick figures of boy meets girl.

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