Saturday, November 05, 2011
Maurice: EM Forster's Classic...
At the suggestion of a dear MOHO friend, especially with my current gay-themed movie watching mood in full bloom, I sat down and watched "Maurice", EM Forster's classic autobiographical gay tale of growing up and coming to terms with homosexuality in Edwardian turn of the century days as a student at Oxford. I had seen snapshots of the story on YouTube, but never had I taken the time to watch it in its entirety.
The Merchant-Ivory beautiful period piece of pre WWI England captured me completely. A huge fan of "A Room with a View" and "Howard's End", I watched it intently and devotedly, and came away thinking how much I have been or am part of the two main characters, Clive and Maurice (pronounced "Morris").
In one scene, Clive is the pursuer of Maurice's affection, and Maurice is the innocent and affectionate friend, never imagining that their caresses or fondness for each other, their playing with each other's hair, or long embraces meant anything but bromantic friendship. How this was me with my Italian friend during my mission... he affectionately in love with me, and me incapable of recognizing his advances as anything more than romantic friendship. Nothing happened until he professed his love for me, and I rebuked him, still some 30 years later feeling the pain of having done so.
Later Maurice rethinks his friend's confession of love for him, and sneaks into Clive's window and hugs and kisses him and professes his love as well... This scene reminded me of being in my friend's bedroom after my mission and returning to the mission as a RM and wrapping myself on top of him and kissing him - and now him shocked, reminding me of my RM status, and that I was to be going to the Swiss Temple that next morning, and shouldn't I return to my own bed.
The roles reverse again and Maurice finds this discovery of male contact insatiable and desires to have it more and more, while Clive returns to the role of proper gentlemen, marrying, keeping up proper appearances, status and decorum. This is when I come to my senses, stop pursuing a life with my friend post-mission, and return home, settle into a proper, righteous role as priesthood holder, provider and companion to a wife, marrying within 1 year. My friend comes to visit before entering the MTC, he still physically wants me, hugs me, kisses me in that guest bedroom, my wife down the hall left to wonder, and I hold back his physical advances reminding him of his temple visit that next day in preparation for his missionary service, and that we must keep our relationship within bromantic terms of friendship, with proper appearances, dignity, worthiness of temple blessings, and decorum above all else - passion be damned.
Oh how I bounced between these two characters, sympathizing and truly understanding each.
Maurice seeks to be cured by a doctor who puts him in a hypnotic trance. I've sought counseling as well, in hopes of finding the cure, or at least the cause for why I'm this way. So far, for Maurice the hypnosis did no good. So far, for me, the counseling has either been of no use or self-indulgent.
In the end, Clive is resolute to a life of self-hatred. He resolves to be a slave to his position, or station in society instead of a slave to his passion. I, too, have resolved to be a slave to my family, marriage, church position, and job status and predominate culture, instead of releasing my reigns and being a slave of my passions for men. I have done a pretty great job of hating myself.
In the end, Maurice throws caution to the wind, potentially losing his status, career, and opening himself to public ridicule and abuse, and allowing passion to win in the end with a man he loves. This part I can certainly understand but haven't yet embraced. It's a nice romantic idea, but not very practical. The two had nothing in common, but their passion. Their interests, education, and common experiences were so vastly different that in "reality" it would have never worked... but the story ends with the observer left to wonder if "passion conquers all", and that being authentic in one's attractions of who one is, is the most important thing.
"Now we shan't never be parted..."
I'm left wondering... wondering if I will forever be the proper gentlemen, secure in my stately home of position, with a loving wife who always wonders who I'm talking to , or what I'm thinking about, and me locking the doors and windows tight from those outside intruders, but while doing so, longing looking to see if anyone may still be coming to steal me away. Or wondering if I could have ever found happiness with my Italian friend had we given it a chance, despite our differences of culture and experience, allowing passion to rule the day, recognizing that church membership, family, position in society, etc. would be lost due to our relationship... but would we be happy? Would the physical passion be sustaining enough? Or would we be on to other more suited to our likings?
"I was yours 'til death once if you'd have cared to keep me..."
Oh the questions. I will never know. My friend, upon returning home early, acquired AIDS and soon thereafter died a miserably painful death. And I, the Clive of the story, was too proud to embrace him in his time of need, of reaching out for my love and affection - leading him to a pathway to self-destruction.
EM Forster's "Maurice" was hidden from being published until after his death, and even upon being published, it was shunned as an inferior literary work in comparison to his other novels. Yet, this film's 1987 interpretation feels real, genuine, and thought-provoking. I want to read his words. I want to obtain a copy and read it for myself. For you see, like Forster, like his two protagonists, Clive and Maurice, like my Italian soul mate and me, we are lost in the world of homosexuality amidst a backdrop of intolerance and bigotry...
What did the hypnotic doctor state - something along the lines that "I would advise you to live in some country... France, Italy, where homosexuality is no longer criminal...Will England ever come around?... England has always been disinclined to accept human nature". What a great line!
It's interesting to read some of the YouTube comments:
"aren't we so fortunate to have been born in a day where it's less sucky to be gay"...
...whereupon another responds: "Man, how can we expect change when even all you guys are fighting about what the "right" attitude should be for homosexuals growing up during this time. Of course he wanted to be cured, who wouldn't want to be cured of something they are told everyday is wrong. When it's shamed in the house and in church. Now we have people to talk to, supporters, and support. Seriously, don't judge what you don't understand. We weren't there, we didn't live it".
Whereupon I respond with a chuckle... little do these commentators recognize the world that is mine that is still as Edwardian England here and now in the 21st Century Utah, as in 1913 England, where we are still and always will be "disinclined to accept human nature", where we still make choices that may seem counter-intuitive or incapable of living authentically... and where we "shouldn't judge what we don't understand."
I am there. I am here. I am living it still.