I saw the movie “Atonement” yesterday evening at the E Street Cinema. I can not and will not do it justice here, and every critic I’ve heard from NPR to the New York Times has raved it will be the best movie of the year. All I can say is the movie based on Ian McEwan’s novel was beautiful and off-the-charts romantic. Many of the scenes were ostensibly stark, artistic photographs and the string of so many powerful images back-to-back evoked one intense emotion after another, rendering me exhausted.
I felt like a truck had run me over when I walked out onto the D.C. streets and hailed a cab, my mind racing with how I’ve always wanted romance like Cecilia’s (played by Keira Knightley) and Robbie’s (played by James Mcavoy), but how unrealistic that is. And how can it be realistic? Their circumstances were unmatched. They were in a different era — the fear around World War II, the excitement of receiving letters in mailboxes and the pain of long-distance. Today, we have ways to communicate instantly that we can take our interactions with loved ones for granted. It’s also possible and probably often that one person can romanticize intimacies without that being the reality of the emotions between both people (like my seven-year long-distance crush on J.).
Later yesterday evening, at a dinner in the basement of the Russia House of borsch, pierogis and martinis with R. and two of his friends, he said, “The imagination is better than reality” and that, to me, extends to so many parts of my life. I’m happiest when I’m dreaming of travel and love and what can be. I’m also happy when I memorialize the intimacies I have, because there are so many of them (wide and varied), so I can relish them later. Each memory of intense emotion is a snapshot in life. In many ways, I’m stringing together these snapshots to eventually make a movie of my life. Each of us could, and the movies if written well would probably be intensely romantic.