Monday, January 22, 2018

Call Me By Your Name: Reprise - Of Desires and Scripts

“You’ve never allowed yourself to have desires, let alone act upon them.”

These words, and the scene in which they were uttered, popped into my head last night as I was watching “Call Me By Your Name” - for the second time, and this time alone.

The scene: it was the late winter of 1995. I was sitting in the private office of my family physician, Dr. Gabor Maté, on the east side of Vancouver. A couple of months before, I had finally, unexpectedly, and quite dramatically, started dealing with the physical abuse I had suffered as a child. Dr. Maté, whom I had known almost ten years, who had delivered each of our four children, had offered to provide a few sessions of counseling as I navigated my way through what I was experiencing.

During those sessions, he said a number of things that I’ve never forgotten, but none had quite the impact upon me as the words I’ve quoted above. They were unexpected. I hadn’t said anything to him about my deepest, darkest secret—that I was attracted to men—and they caught me off guard. As he sat there, staring intently at me with his large, luminous, sad eyes, I wondered: Did he “know” something? Suspect something? What exactly was he referring to?

I never asked him. I didn’t dare. I was afraid. I simply nodded, and the conversation somehow moved on.

I have previously written about reading “Call Me By Your Name,” and I wrote a week ago today about my impressions upon seeing the movie for the first time. I’m glad I went to see it a second time. I saw it with different eyes. It is a beautiful, luscious, wonderful movie, and I decided to write this post to express two main thoughts that came to me last night.

The first—that the first time I saw the movie, I was constantly comparing it to the book, and this resulted in judgment after judgment in my head of what I was seeing on the screen. This judgment prevented me from seeing the beauty being portrayed in front of me.

As I contemplated this last night, I couldn’t help but think about what I had done for most of my adult life. Certainly after I joined the LDS Church, but even before, I fixated upon conforming my life to the “script” of what I was "supposed" to be doing with my life—all the rules, all the “shoulds,” all the commandments—rather than seeing the life that was there. This desire to conform in my life inevitably produced judgment after judgment after judgment—and took me further and further away from who I really was/am. 

Which brings me to the second thought. Desires. Having desires. Acting upon desires. And I’m not mainly talking about sexual desires. I’m talking about the desires and dreams that are the normal part of a normal person who has a sense of self. Dr. Maté was right: I had never allowed myself to have desires, let alone act upon them, because I never had a strong sense of self—and this is frankly one of the main reasons, in hindsight, that I joined the Mormon Church: because it gave me a sense of self. It wasn’t authentic, but it served an existential purpose.

Final thought: I suppose it was inevitable that I processed “Call Me By Your Name” through my own experience. I would imagine many gay men have done the same thing. As a result, in previous posts about both the book and movie, I have focused upon love lost. But one of the things I came away with last night after seeing the movie for the second time, with new eyes, was the beauty of the final scene of the movie where Elio stares into the fire. This has to be one of the most beautifully acted scenes I’ve ever seen in any movie. As he stares into the fire, we see him process the pain he is feeling. Tears are shed. But then, one can almost see Elio remembering the words of his father and see him focusing on the joy of having loved rather than on the pain of having lost, and the discordant minor chord resolves into a major one, and we know that Elio will be okay.

Therein, perhaps, lies the greatest lesson of the movie … for me. 

1 comment:

  1. Deeply moving - thanks Joseph. Your post helped me focus more on what I now have and am and less and less on what I gave up and lost in the past. Critical! Gary