Friday, November 11, 2011

a beautiful striptease!

I took myself off to the movies, last night.  The local cinema is having an Italian film festival, which opened with a film starring Robert De Niro and Monica Bellucci; Manuale d'Amore (Manual of Love).  Watching beautiful Monica (Confession:  I am completely starstruck by her - she is a goddess!) and the one and only Robert De Niro together on screen - and  in Italian!!  Can't get much more romantic than that!  The movie was quite lovely, but one scene in particular took my breath away.

De Niro's character, Adrian, is an older, retired professor whose marriage failed after he underwent a heart transplant.  He has had difficulty adjusting to the freakishness of owning a new heart, and the relational consequences that came with it.  Bellucci plays Viola, a 40 year old woman trying to escape a troubled past.  The two fall in love (Yes, yes, predictable. I know.)

The one scene that I am still replaying in my head, involved a little striptease by De Niro (one would expect that to be memorable, perhaps - but bear with me - it's not for the reason you think!).  Adrian and Viola are by now completely taken with one another's company.  She agrees to spend the evening with him during a local festival, and watch the fireworks from the balcony.  They eat, talk, laugh, and drink copious quantities of champagne.  At the point where they are both very merry and uninhibited, Adrian asks Viola what it is like to be a stripper.  Viola decides to explain by teaching Adrian how.  Using "darkness, some music, and a torch" to help curb the embarrassment, Adrian performs a disarmingly funny and unselfconscious striptease with the aid of Viola's instructions.

Now remember, Adrian is an old guy and Viola is not only much younger, but a rapturously voluptuous beauty.  Nonetheless, the shirt is unbuttoned with a funny little dance, the tie cast off with an admirable flourish!  Down go the trousers with a comical wiggle, revealing old guy legs and boxer shorts.  None of this matters;  both of them are revelling in the joy of one another.  Then comes time to take OFF the shirt!  Adrian is still dancing to the music and living completely in the moment.  At Viola's instructions, he turns his back to her, removes his shirt with a saucy wiggle of the shoulders, swings it in the air and flings it with abandon across the room.  Laughing, she urges him to turn around and then suddenly, he stops dancing.  Slowly, awkwardly, he turns;  hands clasped imploringly over his old man's chest.  He is exposed.  His age.  His history.  His pain.  She gently tells him to put down his hands and gingerly, he does so.  She steps forward and reaches her beautiful smooth hand towards his aged, scarred, and very human chest.  Tenderly, she traces the purple, fleshy, knotted scar that announces his transplant.  It is a beautiful moment.

I'm captivated by that image.  There is something in me and, I think, in everyone, that wants to be truly recognised and fully known.  Somehow, it seems to me that deep communication, acceptance, and such moments of pure intimacy are what make us fully human.  Watching, and caught up in this moment of deep recognition, there is a sense that we are experiencing something much larger than the sum of us. 

I know that such interactions are mediated by a lovely cocktail of chemicals awash throughout our central nervous systems.  I know that courting behaviours and the like can be neatly explained by evolutionary pressures and processes.  But honestly, there seems something in recognising and accepting another's vulnerability;  in exposing our own weaknesses, in reaching out to one another's true identities, that transcends all that.  And I don't want to explain it away - I want to revel in it.  I WANT there to be "something more"!  I don't believe simple biology explains away love, mercy and compassion.  And for me, the strength of our need for this kind of connection with one another points to something in the core of our beings that I would call spiritual.  I like the saying I read on somebody's facebook wall recently:  "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but we are spiritual beings having a human experience."  And what an experience it is!!

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