Friday, February 5, 2016

Desert Hearts

In recent months, Todd Haynes' Carol has been earning acclaim for its depiction of a forbidden romance in an era of strict conventions. It shows two women (one uncertain, one more bold) in a budding relationship behind closed doors. But did you know that someone else beat Haynes to the punch thirty years earlier?

That someone is Donna Deitch, and her film is Desert Hearts. Also focusing on a lesbian liaison during the 1950s, Deitch's film is a more subdued work when in comparison to Haynes'. (Well, it is an independent production from the 1980s.)

From a production standpoint, Desert Hearts has a few similarities with Carol. Both were made by queer directors, both were based on novels by queer authors, and both were made at a time where their endings were not of the normal expectations. (You know, the "bury your gays" trope.) Quite honestly, there needs to be more fiction similar to Desert Hearts and Carol.

Back to Desert Hearts itself. It's the kind of film that doesn't need to show the usual outpouring of emotions from the two female leads; it just shows them being comfortable in each other's company. After all, isn't that the whole point of romance?

Desert Hearts is a quiet solution to the numerous sex-fueled titles of the 1980s. Rather than having its pivotal sex scene be filled with screams of pleasure and clawing at skin, it's more of an intimate discovery of their bodies. Quite honestly, it's a technique that fiction should adhere to more.

My Rating: ****

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