We’re back this week with more AFF Staff Picks for movies to watch on Valentine’s Day. Today we have Conference Director Erin Hallagan’s take on GONE WITH THE WIND, a love story that fits squarely into the Love and Anti-Love categories. Love it or hate it, GONE WITH THE WIND is a great addition to any Valentine’s Day movie watch list.
In trying to decide a “love” or “anti-love” film, I kept circling back to GONE WITH THE WIND – one I feel truly represents both camps. Plus, it’s a personal favorite of mine. Early childhood memories yield many-a-time where friends and family would call me Scarlett O’Hara (I was known for my beautiful curtain-adorned outfits). Okay, okay – I was a little bossy. And stubborn… Over the years, my appreciation of the film has evolved upon each viewing. In my Scarlett days, it was beautiful and rich and there was a pony in the end. Later, I saw the depiction of the American Old South as something harsher; an encapsulated culture of those who refused to evolve themselves and embraced a chivalry that was dying. Most recently, I saw GONE WITH THE WIND as an unrelenting love story.
It’s an unconventional romance, driven by Scarlett’s struggle with lust and her search for deceptive promises of happiness. Her vanity dominates her destiny and she becomes trapped by the illusion of love. She lives dangerously on the curtain-tails of ideas that will never come to fruition. Though Scarlett is blinded, her worthy counterpart Rhett Butler sees everything perfectly clear, and loves her not in spite of it all, but because of it all.
Scarlett’s fabricated feelings for Ashley Wilkes serve as an intoxicating metaphor, as he symbolizes the romanticized Old South stuck in time, nostalgic and bound to fade away. Scarlett, however, is unconquerable and learns to adapt while still hanging on to the idea of him. She faces war and loss with ruthless perseverance. She plows through each adversity with baited breath, still powered by delusion. Yet her triumph does not surface until the film’s last moments – when she finally comes to accept the reality she created. When all possibility of hope is seemingly lost, she embraces optimism in the reassurance that “tomorrow would be another day.” All that she had resisted with hate and antipathy was no longer stifled. Grief and desperation were overcome by a breath of fresh air at last.
I’m of the school that Scarlett did love Rhett, in the end. But to me, this story is more about finding an acceptance and love for self. Scarlett was in constant battle for adoration from others, exercising defiance and ignoring compassion at every turn. Through it all, her lowest points were always rejuvenated by a pilgrimage to her true love: her home. Scarlett finally chooses a new battle – one that will surely test her equally, but could surrender the peace she searched for for so long. Her strength stemmed from Tara, and it was here that it could blossom again.
Adapted from Margaret Mitchell’s novel, Sidney Howard retold a classic and towering story. GONE WITH THE WIND is a timeless tale of love and hate, and the epic journey required to comprehend the roots of happiness and concord. I promise it won’t leave you feeling abandoned or forgotten on your couch this February 14th, but instead in a state of shared mad optimism with Scarlett O’Hara. After all, February 15th is another day.
For all of this week’s Staff Picks, and to keep up with all Austin Film Festival News, check back daily or subscribe to our RSS News Feed.