Ah, love. The mingling of two, sometimes multiple, minds and bodies. A state of hypnotic affection and desire directed at the aware and unaware. It can cross paths with any person of any age at any time. With love, of course, comes the mystery and excitement of romance.
The gestures and words, coupled with vying attempts at wooing and connecting is celebrated so heavily, that there is even a day to proclaim one’s tender feelings towards another: Valentine’s Day. However, not everyone is so keen to have the canoodling and chocolate rubbed in their faces, especially in film.
This Valentine’s Day, I have pulled film scenes that are as heartbreaking as they are memorable. Featuring movies with an array of directors, like François Truffaut and Michelangelo Antonioni, this list travels around the globe to experience the downside to love. For the heavy hearts and romantics alike, I give you the ten most heartbreaking scenes in romantic movies.
10. Blue Velvet (1986)
David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986) is classic Lynchian surrealism served on a backdrop of voyeurism, mystery, and teenage curiosity. Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) forms an odd, sexual relationship with nightclub singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) after getting caught spying on her.
The most heartbreaking scene in Blue Velvet (1986) occurs shortly after Jeffrey is found in Dorothy’s closet. A whirlwind of sadomasochistic tendencies makes their presence known after Dorothy engages in a sexual act with Jeffrey while holding him at knifepoint.
The act is interrupted by Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), who then forces Dorothy into his own repulsive sex acts while Jeffrey again hides in the closet. What makes this scene truly heartbreaking is the audience finds out that Frank is using Dorothy for sex while her son and husband are being held hostage. After Frank leaves, Dorothy desperately begs Jeffrey to abuse her, but he instead leaves her alone.
9. Gertrud (1964)
A controversial Danish drama based on a play of the same name, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Gertrud (1964), holds its own in comparison. The film focuses on the titular character Gertrud (Nina Pens Rode) and her disenchantment with her marriage. Gertrud (1964) not only studies Gertrud’s past love attempts and desire to end her marriage, but also her current lover in the wake of her impending divorce.
The heartbreaking scene in Gertrud (1964) is during a final act with Gertrud and Axel. In the future, Gertrud is living alone and is visited by Axel on her birthday. Axel makes a remark about their friendship “that never turned to love”. Gertrud tells Axel that her tombstone will read “Amor Omnia”, or “love is all”, and Axel leaves. Gertrud is then left alone, perhaps with only the love of herself.
8. A Story from Chikamatsu (1954)
Kenji Mizoguchi’s black-and-white Japanese love story, A Story from Chikamatsu (1954), starts out with infidelity in a marriage and ends in comeuppance at a cost. In this webbed story of deceit, Ishun (Eitarô Shindô) is a controlling, unfaithful husband to Osan (Kyôko Kagawa).
After a misunderstanding, Osan is accused of having affair with Ishun’s apprentice, Mohei (Kazuo Hasegawa). Instead of facing capital punishment, Osan and Mohei decide to run away. The two eventually become lovers in the face of danger.
The heartbreaking scene of A Story from Chikamatsu (1954) is bittersweet. While Ishun has been shunned and has also lost his wealth for being dishonest about the affair, Osan and Mohei are eventually caught and sentenced to death despite their initial affair being a mistruth. The lovers hold hands and smile in the face of crucifixion.
7. The Shape of Water (2017)
Guillermo Del Toro’s fantasy film, The Shape of Water (2017), is a poetic masterpiece of love, fear, and bravery. The Shape of Water (2017) tells the story of Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a mute cleaner that works for a government research facility during the Cold War. Elisa falls in love with an Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) being kept in the facility, and helps him escape after communicating with him through sign language.
The most heartbreaking scene in The Shape of Water (2017) is when Elisa discovers that the Amphibian Man has been brutally beaten and bloodied by Strickland (Michael Shannon) while chained up. The frantic way Elisa feels the creature’s wounds shows her profound affection for him as he whimpers in pain and desperation.
6. Jules et Jim (1962)
François Truffaut’s French New Wave love triangle, Jules et Jim (1962), tells the story of friends Jules (Oskar Werner) and Jim (Henri Serre), and how they fell in love with the unpredictable Catherine (Jeanne Moreau).
The movie bounces from location to location, featuring both men sharing a romantic relationship with Catherine while remaining close to one another. Eventually Catherine’s love for Jim echoes stronger than the love she has for Jules, despite having a child together.
The heartbreaking scene in Jules et Jim (1962) comes at the end when Catherine tricks Jim into getting in a car with her. After getting Jules’ attention, Catherine drives herself and Jim off of a bridge and kills them both. Jules is left with only his daughter and the weight of his friends’ death.