Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Lovers


Chimene (Sophia Loren) spends much of the movie trying to get Rodrigo (Charlton Heston) killed. He explains to her that his killing of her father in a sword fight was a question of honor. She tells him that her avenging her father's death is also a question of honor. They're fully serious, and completely understand each other.

And so, at the big joust at which Rodrigo seeks to clear his name, Chimene asks his opponent to wear her color, which is "deepest black" for her state of mourning. After Rodrigo wins, handing her scarf back covered in blood, she then plots with a nobleman in love with her to ambush the new King's Champion. This plan fails when Rodrigo is rescued by his Moorish ally.

Chess move answering chess move, Rodrigo forces Chimene to marry him, using the legal pretext that he owes her his protection, having killed her father! She complies-- but denies him sex after the wedding; the only way she has left to get back at him.

Both individuals are locked into their code. Thwarting each other only serves to increase their mutual respect. They're equals, and know it-- are each other's perfect mate. When "The Cid" is banished into exile by the young king, Chimene, as Rodrigo's wife, decides to join him in his ignominy. The marriage, at long last, is consummated-- yet she quickly realizes this is temporary. As "the purest knight" he's forced to follow his code and rescue Spain from its opponents.

Honor is all. I think theirs is the deepest kind of love, because it's survived so many obstacles. At the end of the movie, when he's seriously wounded in battle, he has her promise that he'll lead the army, dead or alive, in the morning. The request has enormous poignancy because of all that's gone before. SHE is the one person he can count on-- the one person who understands why it's important he be there. She understands because she knows his code-- because it's been her code. They'd proven to each other in their cruel fights that they each know it. Honor is what the fights were about. It's a brutally harsh kind of love they share, which adds to the emotion of the film. I should add that for this relationship, for these two characters, Heston and Loren with their accompanying personas are perfectly cast.

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