Duras and Her Lover

I finished The Lover, by Marguerite Duras today. A couple months ago, I watched the film version and really appreciated it. When I read that it was based on Duras’ life, I planned on buying it. Yesterday, I found a hardcover copy of the book at the bargain bin in the bookstore, so I bought it.

The movie was better. Granted, the book gave each character more depth, but the movie had more impact, more images. Well… in many ways, the flick is like soft porn. No porn, however, has a storyline like Duras’ book. Moreover, it’s more than just a story: The Lover is an autobiography. Reading her words is like being a spectator in her life — I feel like a voyeur — a witness to a moment in time which defined a person’s life.

Why am I so fascinated with The Lover? Perhaps, I am intrigued by the story of a white-girl who is sexually drawn to a Chinese man? In the film, I was mesmerized by Jane March’s smoldering passion. You can sense the anticipation, her curiosity with sex, and her conscious decision to become a de facto child prostitute. Maybe those reasons explain my fascination… maybe not at all. More than anything else, I think my fascination stems from the sensations of voyeurism. I get a peek into the life of another person, their thoughts, their motivations, their fears and desires. It is a vicarious experience that leads me to understand more of the Human Experience.

That is an important function of good films: they allow us to experience a life that we might never have lived. This explains why I love movies about heroin, homosexuality, prostitution, and other areas of deviancy. These are lives that I do not see myself ever living, but they intrigue me. Even though I don’t live it, someone does. I want to understand. Their lives are as much a part of the whole of Human Experience as mine. Understanding their experience can very well enrich mine.

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