Before you start reading, start playing the instrumental versions of the songs made for the movie “Call Me By Your Name”. Put in on loop so it will accompany you throughout this post. 🙂
Yesterday I wrote what must be my longest review ever about anything, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the themes and layers that this movie/book has to offer. Yesterday was all about the ‘why’ this movie became so many people’s favorite, well, almost all about it, I couldn’t quite stop myself from getting emotional. Today I want to dig deeper and explore why this became my favorite. As I’m writing this, fireworks had already started sounding all over town even though there’re still six hours left until midnight. To write this in the very last hours of this emotionally turbulent year of 2017… really, what could be more fitting than that.
I have to issue a spoiler warning as I’m going to analyze quite many scenes and reflect them with my own life. I’ll try to write this more coherently than I did yesterday. I’ll be quoting from the book only, most of them have their equivalents in the movie too.
Sex and sexuality
I have to admit, I resent just a little bit that some describe “Call Me By Your Name” as a story about gay men. It’s actually a story of two bisexual men, more accurately just a love story between two people but if you really have to give them a sexual orientation then it’s bi. I’m bisexual myself, and it’s sad to realize how used to it I am to have bisexualism be monstrously under-represented or misrepresented in literature, in popular culture and especially in movies. It’s like the whole world have no idea what to do with us. Lines like “oh so you’re gay now” coming from a scorned wife who catches her husband cheating on her with another man. What is it that makes it so hard to understand that some people, people like me, can love a person regardless of their gender? As strongly as heterosexuals can’t imagine being with someone from the same sex, I had never been capable of understanding how could gender stop me from falling in love. Us bisexuals, we don’t switch back and forth from hetero to gay and back. We just are constantly both, but not really at the same time.
Then comes another thing I’ve been accused of many times, just because I am capable of loving both men and women, doesn’t mean I have to have both at any given time. If I am dating a man exclusively, I won’t go looking for another person’s company, men or women. Of course, when you add polyamory into the mix, which I am also, it sometimes gets confusing, even in my head. So I felt comforted while reading Elio’s story, hoping that he would somehow show the world what it is like to be bisexual and maybe polyamorous too. It’s as natural as it reads and shows in the book and the movie.
“He brought the half peach to be, making certain not to spill its contents as he too his clothes off.
‘I’m sick, aren’t I?’ I asked.
‘No, you’re not sick – I wish everyone were as sick as you. Want to see sick?'”
Ah, the infamous peach scene. It is erotic, and sensual, and resonates with me on the levels that probably didn’t with many in the audience. Or at least maybe not as strongly. Luckily, I’ve never had to struggle with shame when it comes to my bisexuality, but with almost everything else about my sexuality, about submissive tendencies, about my masochism and sadism. Part of why I keep writing this blog is because I want to let my readers, maybe just one in a hundred, know that they aren’t alone. On a conscious level, I know I have nothing to be ashamed of what I like, but in the back of my head, ‘I’m sick, aren’t I?’ is a constant echo. No matter how much reassurance you get, it only takes one rejection to push you back down the bottomless pit of self-loathing and shame. Because it’s not other people that are judging you, it’s you who is doing the judging. To learn to love yourself, faults and all, it’s really a life-long lessons, and you could only hope you find your own Oliver who not only thinks you’re perfect just the way you are, but better yet, an Oliver who one-up you and take a big bite out of your peach with all of its contents.
All the sexual things in the movie and book, the feet worship, the obsession of the clothes that carry the scent, eating the semen-filled peach, I envy and pity those who find those things disgusting. Because that tells me that they have yet to experience the all-consuming kind of lust and passion that would eat them alive and make them do crazy things. A kind of passion in which nothing is out of the question. A kind of lust that makes your vision blurry, as blurry as the camera went when Elio and Oliver kissed in the movie. Pity because they have yet to experience something as powerful. Envy because they don’t have to experience the pain of loss either.
“They can never undo it, never unwrite it, never unlive it, or relive it – it’s just stuck there like a vision of fireflies on a summer field toward evening that keeps saying, ‘You could have had this instead’. But going back is false. Moving ahead is false. Looking the other way is false. Trying to redress all that is false turns out to be just as false.”
“Is it better to Speak or die?” – To Love or Not to Love
“In my place, most parents would hope the whole thing goes away, or pray that their sons land on their feet soon enough. But I am not such a parent. In your place, if there is pain, nurse it, and if there is a flame, don’t snuff it out, don’t be brutal with it. Withdrawal can be a terrible thing when it keeps us awake at night, and watching others forget us sooner than we’d want to be forgotten is no better. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything – what a waste!”
The famous quote from Elio’s dad. To hear that all put into such beautiful words, I can’t explain how it made me feel. Ressurance might be the wrong word, but it’s the first word that comes to mind. I cried a lot during that scene in the movie. Because without me making a conscious choice, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing all my life. The last thing I want to do is go bankrupt, so I let myself feel everything. Because feeling nothing is my biggest fear. What Elio’s dad didn’t tell him is that it’s really an exhausting way of living. To feel so strongly and so much. But I’m not capable of living in any other way, I can’t stop myself from giving all of myself whenever I fall in love. It’s just the way I am. But would I change even if I could? Even amongst all the pain and the tears and heartbreaks, my answer is and will always be a breathless ‘I wouldn’t want it any other way’.
“‘I’m like you,’ he said. ‘I remember everything.’
I stopped for a second. If you remember everything, I wanted to say, and if you are really like me, then before you leave tomorrow, or when you’re ready to shut the door of the taxi and have already said goodbye to everyone else and there’s not a thing left to say in this life, then, just this once, turn to me, even in jest, or as an afterthought, which would have meant everything to me when we were together, and, as you did back then, look me in the face, hold my gaze, and call me by your name.”
That was the last sentence of the book. To call it the story of first love is doing it a montrous injustice. It’s a story of all love. The love. I know for some it’s almost ridiculous to imagine that at 17 years old, someone would be capable of love like that. I myself weren’t nearly as wise as Elio when I was 17. And for me, the more I know myself, the more deeply I would fall in love. It’s like the more I know myself, the more of me becomes capable of loving someone. And I tend to love those more intently, those who had helped me discover bits and pieces of myself. And I feel like Oliver was that someone for Elio. Oliver helped Elio become who he is, and who he maybe wanted to be. If I’ve met my previous love when I was fifteen (that was when I first fell in love), it might’ve just came close to what Elio and Oliver had. I’ve never met my Oliver, not in one person. All of the love I’ve had in my life, all of them combined comes close. I’m terrified of finding my Oliver. But at the same time, I wouldn’t know how to stop searching.
So, yesterday and today’s posts combined is what “Call Me By Your Name” is to me. It will forever be my safety blanket. I will always want to fall in love with Oliver alongside Elio over and over again, and at the same time, fall in love with Elio too. And in those moments when I’m utterly tired of standing with one leg over the cliff, when I can feel I’m wavering in my existence, I will revisit Mr Perlman and let him reassure me. Can hardly end the year on a better note than that.
Happy New Year, everyone!