As I was compiling the list of the movies by women about women, I came across some 2010s movies that have been made about women who express love and passionate feelings towards their own gender – Breathe (2014), Carol (2015), Tell It To The Bees (2018), Portrait of The Lady on Fire (2019). Although I am more interested in the dynamics between women and men and the balance of feminine and masculine in their relationships, I find the trend intriguing, as it paints an interesting picture. The picture that directly refers to the male vs female paradigm that I have mentioned in my article ‘A Dying Male Paradigm of Money, Career, and Sex’.
Just to remind – the male paradigm of money, career, sex does not allow much space for the feminine expression when it comes to feelings, compassion, comradery, love, balance, development, empathy, emotions, nurturing, self-expression and creativity. The male paradigm assigns certain roles to women that, in many cases, women find hard to comply with. And if and when they comply, some of them find it hard to completely abandon the roles of the female paradigm. Put on the back-burner, these roles still require attention. Not expressed in their natural form they take other forms. I believe that romantic and erotic relationships between women is one of such forms. For, it allows to activate the female paradigm and focus on its core elements - inspiration, creativity, and love, which comprise all of the stated earlier elements. These relationships satisfy women’s thirst for love, tenderness, understanding, emotions and beauty.
To my mind, the movies Breathe (2014), Carol (2015), Tell It To The Bees (2018), Portrait of The Lady on Fire (2019) explore exactly such relationships where women gravitate towards each other trying to escape the roles or situations connected to the expressions of the male paradigm. It is also important to note that the four movies are written and directed by women and therefore have a truer view on such relationships as opposed to movies made about the same subject by men. For, men tend to focus on the erotic side of the relationship rather than the psychological and emotional.
Based on the novel 'Respire' by Anne-Sophie Brasme
Directed by Mélanie Laurent
Breathe (2014) tells a story of two school girls, Charlie and Sarah and their love-hate friendship. Both girls come from dysfunctional families. Charlie has an abusive father – her parents are going through the divorce. Sarah has no father and an alcoholic mother.
The girls form an ambiguous friendship where both girls behave in a strange way not being able to decide upon their feelings and actions. Sarah accuses Charlie of being an abuser who poses as a victim, and Charlie accuses Sarah of being mean and off and on, one minute being warm, another being cold.
Instead of love the relationship becomes an obsession based on meanness and accusations and leads to a sad end. Sarah tells Charlie that she will go to Paris with another friend and will leave Charlie behind stuck in a small town. Enraged, Charlie suffocates Sarah with a pillow.
The movie illustrates the anti-female paradigm where inspiration, creativity, and love have no place and therefore the relationship cannot survive.
Screenplay by Phyllis Nagy
Based on the novel 'Price of Salt' by Patricia Highsmith
Carol (2015) tells a story of Carol Aird, a glamorous lady who is going through a divorce with her husband, Harge, and an aspiring photographer, Therese, who is doubtful about her relationship with her boy-friend, Richard. The events unfold during Christmas and New Year period that adds an air of magic.
Carol is the one who initiates friendship and invites Therese first to her house in New Jersey, and then, on a road trip. Carol gives Therese as a Christmas present a Canon camera and Therese takes pictures of Carol. In the course of the road rip their friendship grows into love. However, Carol and Therese are not alone on their journey. They are followed by a private detective hired by Carol’s husband who wants to collect proof of her homosexuality to fight her in court over the custody of their child. Hoping to settle the custody in her favour Carol avoids contact with Therese but in the end gives up her hope and returns to Therese.
On the career front, both women find their places too. Carol rents an apartment on Madison Avenue and starts working for a furniture house, and Therese creates a portfolio of her photographs and gets a job in The New York Times.
The female paradigm of inspiration, creativity and love works perfectly in this story.
Tell It To The Bees (2018)
Screenplay by Henrietta and Jessica Ashworth
Based on the novel 'Tell It To The Bees' by Fiona Shaw
Tell It To The Bees (2018) tells a story of Lydia, a single mother, abandoned by her husband in favour of another woman, and Jean Markham, a doctor who returns to her family estate that she has inherited. Lydia has a son who has a strong bond with his mother but also seeks approval of his absent father.
The events unfold in a small community in rural Scotland. Jean forms a friendship with Lydia’s son who is taken to her after being bullied in school. Jean gives him books to read, treats him with patience and kindness, and tells him that he can whisper his secrets to the bees, the colonies of which she has on her estate.
When Lydia loses her job at a machine factory she is employed by Jean and moves in to her estate. Soon a tender friendship is formed between women that grows into love, the fact of which they try to keep a secret from the narrow-minded folks of the community. However, their secret is exposed when Lydia’s son accidentally sees them making love. Confused by what he has seen and not being able to keep it to himself the boy tells his secret to his father, the consequence of which is rather tragic – rape, an abortion in the back alley and then departure. The sorrowful end of the film defers from the happier end of the book, though.
The movie highlights the clash between the two paradigms – the male and female one – violence vs tenderness, hatred vs love, rebuke vs understanding.
Portrait of The Lady on Fire (2019)
Written and directed by Céline Sciamma
Portrait of The Lady on Fire (2019) tells a story of a female painter, Marianne, and a young woman, Heloise, who lives on an island in Brittany and is to be married to Milanese nobleman. Marianne is hired by Heloise’s mother to pose as her companion and in secret study her features so she can paint a portrait of her. The reason being Heloise refuses to pose for portraits as she does not want to get married.
Marianne finishes her painting but then destroys it and tells Heloise of her true reason for arriving. The two women form a friendship. Heloise agrees to pose for her portrait and Heloise’s mother leaves for Italy. As Heloise and Marianne spend time together, their bond grows into love. One evening they attend a gathering where women sing and dance, during which Heloise’s dress briefly catches the fire. The next day they share a kiss and make love in a cave on the beach.
The romance between two women is interrupted by the return of Heloise’s mother. Before leaving, Marianne does a sketch of herself on the page 28 in one of Heloise’s books, as well as sketches Heloise to remember her. As Marianne is about to leave the house Heloise says: ‘Turn aound'. She turns around and sees Heloise in a wedding dress. The image that has haunted her the past days.
Marianne sees Heloise only twice after that – on a portrait where she stands with a child and the book opened on the page 28, and at a concert where Heloise is overcome with emotions while listening to Summer from Vivaldi's Four Seasons.
The tender movie beautifully portraits the female paradigm of inspiration, creativity and love, albeit overshadowed by the male one.