5. Cinema Paradiso
While not certainly a romance feature, Cinema Paradiso does contain a powerful love story that is attached to the growing lead character Salvatore. As a child, Salvatore loves film, and works his way in as a projectionist at a young age. In a sanitary Giancaldo, Sicily, sex and taboo subjects are removed from films. Salvatore falls in love with Elena as a teenager, and he tries his best to earn her affection.
Like the discussion of sex, his connection to the love of his life is pulled away, as her father refuses Salvatore’s advances. He removes himself from the world by offering his services in a war, and he returns to Sicily without his strongest loves present.
Elena is nowhere to be found, and the theatre he grew up in is knocked over. Years later, Salvatore is with a different woman, and works as a filmmaker, as an effort to chase both of his wildest dreams as best as he can; that’s devastating when you think about it.
4. Hiroshima mon amour
In this short, adventurous film, an actress visits Japan to take part in an anti-war film; she proceeds to fall in love with a Japanese citizen who happens to be married.
Released in 1959, Hiroshima mon amour is likely a statement on war over ten years after the second World War took place, perhaps as a letter to the world that we can all coexist. In fact, the start of the film is almost a documentary on the nuclear bombing in Hiroshima and the ways it affected all of the people living there.
The film flows into a collection of memories and recounts by both partners, maybe as a final attempt to try and hang on to these glimpses of hope. Both the woman and man (referred to as here and him respectively) are knowledgeable of their drifting apart, but Hiroshima mon amour is an honest effort to piece together the fragments of what once was.
3. Jules et Jim
How can a platonic love triangle exist? Catherine enters the lives of the titular characters, and each man seems to be okay with the other being with Catherine (on the outside, anyways). There actually never is any explicit malice between Jules or Jim throughout the entire picture, as both men have even gone to war together; both of them actually fight on opposing sides, and have the unfortunate opportunity to kill each other.
A shared love for the same woman is hardly the worst problem these friends face. However, Catherine suffers the most, because she does not know what her role in life is. She ultimately picks Jules to spend the rest of her life with, only to commit suicide with him by driving off of a bridge. Jim may have won life, but he lost his best friend and his life partner in one shot.
Of course this film is going to be mentioned on a list of romantic pictures, but I still believe Casablanca is somewhat misunderstood for what it truly can represent. Is love present? Sure. Rick and Ilsa cross paths again a year after their relationship came to a screeching halt. They quarrel about what happened, where it all went wrong, and how their lives are now.
However, I think the majority of the film’s representation of love comes from the sacrifices both people make to show their dedication to each other. Ilsa left Rick in order to not drag him along once she receives new information about her presumed-dead husband being alive. Rick puts himself in danger to allow Ilsa and Rick to leave. Casablanca is the existence of love being found outside of an actual relationship, and that kind of love is both hyper-real and, frankly, excruciating to witness.
1. Brief Encounter
If you believe in love at first sight, you might also agree that it can happen at any time. This notion, unfortunately, opens up the opportunity for love occurring at the worst possible moment. Laura is married, and war is on the horizon any day now. Alec, also married, comes into contact with Laura at a train station.
This chance encounter begs for repeat instances, so these two people from different worlds decide to meet again. This is the sparks that flew in their respective pasts, yet they have appeared once again.
This pairing turns into a tumbling-down into a new level of love, and it begins to get dangerous. How can this level of adoration go further? Brief Encounter is the sad instance where “what-ifs” can soar around, but real life is the way it is. You can only do so much, because life can be cruel.