* Editor’s note: Marion is taking the day off. This column first ran in 2008.
I don’t know how this happened, but my husband won’t watch “my” movies anymore. When we were dating, we went to the movies together. When we had young children, we escaped to the movies. Even now, we see new flicks in the theatre. But when my Netflix movies arrive, he won’t watch them.
Take a recent example, “Wit.”
Based on a Pulitzer prize-winning play, it’s the story of a woman slowly dying in a hospital, not just any woman, but beautiful Emma Thompson who delivers a fabulous performance.
And how about “The Sea Inside”?
I like stories based on real events and this one is powerful. The movie won the Oscar for foreign films in 2004 and the star, Javier Bardem, is emerging as a major talent.
“The Sea Inside” is not about slow, inexorable death. It’s about death by choice, an interesting philosophical topic, in my opinion.
And how about my Holocaust movies, including “The Pianist,” “Sunshine,” and “Into the Arms of Strangers”? My husband won’t watch with me.
We face life together; why can’t we share movies in the same way? Why does he watch gory shoot-’em-up stories full of deaths that never really happened?
If we have separate accounts on Netflix, can divorce be far behind?
A movie I watched last week (alone) offered new insight.
It’s a Disney flick called ”Eight Below,” recommended by someone who noticed my new interest in dogs.
The story, based on true events, is set at a research station in Antarctica, where the hero, Jerry, manages a dog sled team. The dogs, huskies mostly, are beautiful and distinctive-looking. I learned their names and liked them all, especially the lead dog, Maya.
Trouble enters in the form of a pushy researcher who demands to travel by dogsled in a perilous snowstorm. He manages to fall into ice and crevasses, to be rescued repeatedly by Jerry and his brave dogs.
I didn’t care much what happened to the pushy doctor, but when Jerry was forced to fly out, leaving his dogs alone on the tundra, my empathy almost got the better of me. I began to feel cold. I ran for blankets. I curled up under them.
The movie counts off the days and months of the Antarctic winter as the abandoned dogs carry on without their master, hungry and threatened by predators.
My brain felt as if some kind of wire was being ratcheted tighter and tighter, like the chains that bound the sled dogs together at first. Each incident, each fall, each dog looking forlorn, led to another twist of that wire.
I began to wonder if I should turn the movie off.
I fought back by reminding myself of several things. First, this is a movie and they’re not allowed to injure dogs or people for real. Second, it’s a Disney movie, meant for children, or at least teens, so how badly could it end? Third, as my mother used to say, “it’s only a movie.”
None of these remedies worked, especially when Maya was mauled by an elephant seal. Was I going to have to watch her starve and die? It was terrible watching actor Adrien Brody lose weight in The Pianist. I didn’t want to do that again.
Pretty soon I was barely watching the movie because I was trying so hard to right my psyche which had clearly fallen off the train.
At this point, my husband wandered through.
“What time would you like dinner?” he said, generously offering to cook. I ignored him as if he were proposing to go out and shoot ducks.
The dogs were alone for 175 days now. Maya was foundering.
I tried to distance myself from what was happening by noticing details. I marveled at the training of the dogs, the way they got Maya’s successor, Max, to bring her a dead seagull for dinner.
My TV needs dusting.
Finally, the plot turned and it looked as if Jerry would arrive in time for a rescue. I began to hope. I won’t tell you how the movie ended, but I can say that the wire around my head loosened, a blessed relief.
My husband is a much smarter movie-watcher than I. He understands plot and foreshadowing and he can usually predict what will happen. I’m sure he could have told me after 10 minutes how many of the dogs would survive and which ones.
I admire his ability to predict plot, but I don’t see how it makes a movie more enjoyable, and I still don’t understand why he likes fake violence.
When I told him that I almost returned “Eight Below” unfinished because I couldn’t stand the tension he said, “A Disney movie? About dogs? I want to watch it now to figure out how you tick.” I actually saw him pick up the DVD box and move it to his pile.
He’s as puzzled by me as I am by him.
The romance is still alive.
— Marion Franck lives in Davis with her family. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org