TALKING FILMS

When death overpowers love: The anti-Valentine’s Day movie list

Can love be considered to have triumphed when the lovers die at the end? Eleven films from India and elsewhere attempt to answer the question.

When we think of Valentine’s Day, we often think of romcoms with happy endings. There are the occasional heartbreaks, but the lovers eventually emerge unscathed or move on to greener pastures. Death, then, is an anomaly on February 14, unless we are discussing such classics as Love Story (1970) and Titanic (1999), in which the protagonists survive to carry on the eternal flame of love. Can a romance be considered to have triumphed when the lovers die at the end? We pick 11 films that try to answer this question.

The Ninth Circle (1960)

The Ninth Circle (1960).
The Ninth Circle (1960).

Considered a Croatian classic, France Stiglic’s WWII drama is about Ivo (Boris Dvornik), a Catholic who marries a Jewish woman named Ruth (Dusica Zegarac) to save her from the Nazis. Though Ivo loves Magda (Beba Loncar), he finally falls in love with his new bride. Their joy is short-lived as Ruth is arrested and sent to a concentration camp.

Bamboo Doll of Echizen (1963)

Bamboo Doll of Echizen (1963).
Bamboo Doll of Echizen (1963).

Tsutomu Mizukami’s novel is the basis of Kozaburo Yoshimura’s Japanese movie. Kisuke (Jun-Ichiro Yamashita), a bamboo doll-maker, marries the prostitute Tamae (Ayako Wakao) on a whim and out of pity. Tamae had been his father’s client, and this knowledge fills the relationship between the young couple with tension and uncertainty. Tamae leaves Kisuke and gets pregnant by another man, but desperately seeks to abort the baby. While returning to her husband, she loses the child but dies in the process. Kisuke too dies of heartbreak, thus ending the cycle of suffering.

Manila in the Claws Of Light (1975)

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Manila in the Claws Of Light (1975).

Few directors have filmed the Philippines like the legendary Lino Brocka. Manila in the Claws of Light is perhaps his most scathing attack on Manila’s unforgiving nature. Julio (Bembol Roco) comes to the city in search of his lover Ligaya (Hilda Koronel), who has become a prostitute. Julio does odd jobs to survive, and gets firsthand experience of Manila’s brutality. He does finds Ligaya, but the city finally swallows them up.

Gypsies Are Found Near Heaven (1975)

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Gypsies Are Found Near Heaven (1975).

A volatile tragedy from the former Soviet Union. Gypsies Are Found Near Heaven has been directed by Emil Loteanue, who based the movie on several short stories by Maxim Gorky. Proud horse thief Loiko Grigore Grigoriu) falls in love with free-spirited Rada (Svetlana Toma), but she refuses to be easily tamed. Loiko’s jealousy overpowers his love. One of the biggest hits of the Soviet era, the movie is also known for Eugen Doga’s soundtrack.

My Heart is That Eternal Rose (1989)

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My Heart is That Eternal Rose (1989).

Directed by Hong Kong New Wave sensation Patrick Tam, this tragic love story is about a gangster’s mistress, Lap (Joey Wong), and her ex-lover Ricky Ma (Kenny Bee), who has become an assassin. Fate brings them together again, but it is not meant to be. Tony Leung Chiu-wai (Infernal Affairs, In the Mood for Love) makes his mark as one of the gang members who has a crush on Lap but tries to help her reunite with Rick.

Seoul Rainbow (1989)

This movie was recently uploaded by the Korean Film Archive on its official channel, and it deserves a watch for its expose of the hellish price of fame. Director Kim Ho-sun creates a drama that is straight out of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth. Yu-ra (Kang Ri-na) wants to become a top model and is ready to do anything to achieve it, even as her photographer boyfriend Jun (Lee Dong-jun) watches on helplessly. As she tries to break out of the image trap, Jun resorts to desperate measures to rescue her.

Guna (1991)

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The song Parthavizhi Paarthapadi from Guna (1991).

A successor of sorts to Moondram Pirai (1982), Santhana Bharathi’s Tamil movie has Kamal Haasan as the mentally unstable Guna, who believes that he will marry an angel on a full-moon day. He kidnaps the unsuspecting Rohini (Roshini). She gradually falls in love with her captor, but this kind of love can lead only to tragedy.

Agir Roman (1997)

Mustafa Altioklar’s Agir Roman takes mild inspiration from Naguib Mahfouz’s novel Midaq Alley (1947) and is based on another novel by Metin Cacan of the same name. This melancholic, yet visceral, movie is about Salih (Okan Bayulgen), a mechanic who stands up to the gangster Reis (Mustafa Ugurlu). Salih becomes a hero of sorts and falls in love with the prostitute Tina (Mujde Ar). She leaves her profession, but tension mount between them because of Salih’s jealousy. The romance reaches its foregone conclusion when Tina gives herself up to the gangster to protect Salih from a murder charge.

The Other (1999)

Celebrated Egyptian director Youssef Chahine made this scathing treatise about his society squeezed between and throttled by capitalism and fundamentalism. Two doomed lovers, Hanan (Hana Tork) and Adam (Hani Salama), get caught in a cross-fire that leads to a tragic conclusion. Noted intellectual Edward Said makes a small but significant appearance in the drama.

Caracas Onto Death (2000)

Young Aixa (Eliana Lopez) is pregnant by of her fugitive boyfriend Ramon (Luke Grande). Aixa’s grandmother tells her to abort her baby, but Ramon has other ideas. Director Gustavo Balza maintains a balance between religion and rationality, but shows that no one wins in the end. Aixa becomes a victim of both forces, with Ramon as collateral.

Monpura (2009)

Monpura (2009).
Monpura (2009).

Giasuddin Selim’s lyrical movie, supported by a folk-induced soundtrack, tells the tragic story of Shonai (Chanchal Choudhury) and Pori (Farhana Mili). Shonai works for a rich landlord. When the landlord’s mentally unstable son commits a murder, Shonai has to take the blame and seek refuge on a remote island. There, he meets Pari, but his past catches up with him. The fairytale ends in a nightmare.

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Some of the worst decisions made in history

From the boardroom to the battlefield, bad decisions have been a recipe for disaster

On New Year’s Day, 1962, Dick Rowe, the official talent scout for Decca Records, went to office, little realising that this was to become one of the most notorious days in music history. He and producer Mike Smith had to audition bands and decide if any were good enough to be signed on to the record label. At 11:00 am, either Rowe or Smith, history is not sure who, listened a group of 4 boys who had driven for over 10 hours through a snowstorm from Liverpool, play 15 songs. After a long day spent listening to other bands, the Rowe-Smith duo signed on a local group that would be more cost effective. The band they rejected went on to become one of the greatest acts in musical history – The Beatles. However, in 1962, they were allegedly dismissed with the statement “Guitar groups are on the way out”.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Decca’s decision is a classic example of deciding based on biases and poor information. History is full of examples of poor decisions that have had far reaching and often disastrous consequences.

In the world of business, where decisions are usually made after much analysis, bad decisions have wiped out successful giants. Take the example of Kodak – a company that made a devastating wrong decision despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Everyone knows that Kodak couldn’t survive as digital photography replaced film. What is so ironic that Alanis Morissette could have sung about it, is that the digital camera was first invented by an engineer at Kodak as early as 1975. In 1981, an extensive study commissioned by Kodak showed that digital was likely to replace Kodak’s film camera business in about 10 years. Astonishingly, Kodak did not use this time to capitalise on their invention of digital cameras – rather they focused on making their film cameras even better. In 1996, they released a combined camera – the Advantix, which let users preview their shots digitally to decide which ones to print. Quite understandably, no one wanted to spend on printing when they could view, store and share photos digitally. The Advantix failed, but the company’s unwillingness to shift focus to digital technology continued. Kodak went from a 90% market share in US camera sales in 1976 to less than 10% in 2012, when it filed for bankruptcy. It sold off many of its biggest businesses and patents and is now a shell of its former self.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Few military blunders are as monumental as Napoleon’s decision to invade Russia. The military genius had conquered most of modern day Europe. However, Britain remained out of his grasp and so, he imposed a trade blockade against the island nation. But the Russia’s Czar Alexander I refused to comply due to its effect on Russian trade. To teach the Russians a lesson, Napolean assembled his Grand Armée – one of the largest forces to ever march on war. Estimates put it between 450,000 to 680,000 soldiers. Napoleon had been so successful because his army could live off the land i.e. forage and scavenge extensively to survive. This was successful in agriculture-rich and densely populated central Europe. The vast, barren lands of Russia were a different story altogether. The Russian army kept retreating further and further inland burning crops, cities and other resources in their wake to keep these from falling into French hands. A game of cat and mouse ensued with the French losing soldiers to disease, starvation and exhaustion. The first standoff between armies was the bloody Battle of Borodino which resulted in almost 70,000 casualties. Seven days later Napoleon marched into a Moscow that was a mere shell, burned and stripped of any supplies. No Russian delegation came to formally surrender. Faced with no provisions, diminished troops and a Russian force that refused to play by the rules, Napolean began the long retreat, back to France. His miseries hadn’t ended - his troops were attacked by fresh Russian forces and had to deal with the onset of an early winter. According to some, only 22,000 French troops made it back to France after the disastrous campaign.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to sports, few long time Indian cricket fans can remember the AustralAsia Cup final of 1986 without wincing. The stakes were extremely high – Pakistan had never won a major cricket tournament, the atmosphere at the Sharjah stadium was electric, the India-Pakistan rivalry at its height. Pakistan had one wicket in hand, with four runs required off one ball. And then the unthinkable happened – Chetan Sharma decided to bowl a Yorker. This is an extremely difficult ball to bowl, many of the best bowlers shy away from it especially in high pressure situations. A badly timed Yorker can morph into a full toss ball that can be easily played by the batsman. For Sharma who was then just 18 years old, this was an ambitious plan that went wrong. The ball emerged as a low full toss which Miandad smashed for a six, taking Pakistan to victory. Almost 30 years later, this ball is still the first thing Chetan Sharma is asked about when anyone meets him.

So, what leads to bad decisions? While these examples show the role of personal biases, inertia, imperfect information and overconfidence, bad advice can also lead to bad decisions. One of the worst things you can do when making an important decision is to make it on instinct or merely on someone’s suggestion, without arming yourself with the right information. That’s why Aegon Life puts the power in your hands, so you have all you need when choosing something as important as life insurance. The Aegon Life portal has enough information to help someone unfamiliar with insurance become an expert. So empower yourself with information today and avoid decisions based on bad advice. For more information on the iDecide campaign, see here.

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