Who doesn’t want to be loved? The desire to be loved is an innate human feeling, even so far as to say it’s an addiction. It can feel just as necessary to people as eating and breathing. And when we are in love, our world revolves around the very thing we love, just like the Earth revolving around the Sun. This love we desire should be healthy, but unfortunately, this is not always the case. Love can also have a dark and disturbing side to it. Some love can be unhealthy leading to obsessive, delusional and controlling behaviour. When someone rooted in insecurity and instability reaches out to love, a desire to have control, manipulate, or treat the feeling like an addiction can develop. In both books and films, this twisted version of love has been portrayed as a means of mirroring society’s negative tendencies towards love as a cautionary tale. Reflecting both the best and the worst of what love can make a person do. However much we love a happy ending, we also seem to enjoy a tortured story too. Find out more here in Twisted Love.
The emotion of love is one explored multiple times in cinema and shown from many different perspectives. We tend to be easily drawn to a happy ending where everything works out well. The twists and turns of human behaviour can be explored in ‘romance’ films in multiple ways. Here we explore a few key films, classics and new releases, that show love at its worst, thrilling to watch the train-wreck, engaging and enthralling, maybe because it’s not our own.
Everything, Everything (2017)
Everything, Everything is the story of a young girl, Maddy, who has an immune disorder that her mother treats, which prevents her from leaving her home. This 2017 film directed by Stella Meghie portrays this concept of controlling love derived from the fear of losing the person you love.
Maddy’s desire to experience life grows when she meets the boy next door, she rebels against her mother’s advice and discovers the truth about her illness.
It never existed. Her mother had lied about this sickness as a means of control over her daughter. Her mother had a deep desire to protect her from the world and the only way she knew how to was to prevent her from living her life.
This suffocating, toxic love, which can be diagnosed as Munchausen’s by Proxy is a mental illness and form of child abuse where a caretaker makes up an illness to make it seem as if their child is sick. This is the main point of oppression in the film that Maddy eventually breaks free from.
Misery, based on the novel of the same title by Stephen King, is another prime example of obsessive, delusional love leading to an attempt to control the person you adore.
In this movie, a deranged fan holds her favourite author captive after he gets stuck in a snowstorm. She then proceeds to force him to rewrite the finale of his book series into an ending that satisfies her delusions.
This all-consuming adoration from fan to author highlights her neurotic feelings; she believes she knows him and that her connection to him is stronger than just being an admirer. Reading his books and becoming a ‘superfan’, led her into an unhealthy delusional state where she honestly believed she knew what was best for him.
The movie received an overall positive reaction when it first premiered in 1990 and has become a classic ever since. It also received critical acclaim including the Academy Award for Best Actress.
Fatal Attraction (1987)
This American psychological thriller, directed by Adrian Lyne, shows another side to love that becomes an obsession out of one’s own delusions.
Fatal Attraction follows a woman (Glenn Close), who becomes enthralled with a married man (Michael Douglas) with whom she has an affair. She manipulates him into spending more time with her and attempts to control his life to force herself into it. She sought dominance over him and his life as she believed that they were meant to be together due to her inability to see the reality of their situation.
This film also was highly praised at the time of release, spending eight weeks at the number one spot in the US and becoming the second highest-grossing film of 1987.
I, Tonya (2018)
Another side to this perspective on toxic love in films is seen in movies regarding obsessive passion for one’s craft and the desire to be perfect.
I, Tonya is a biographical film about skater Tonya Harding and her infatuation with perfection in skating. From an oppressive mother who forced her into her sports career to an abusive husband, across both her personal life and her work life, Tonya experiences many destructive forms of love. But none more toxic than her love-hate relationship with skating because although she was naturally gifted, her mother pushed her with her pressure and abuse.
Directed by Craig Gillespie, the 2018 movie starring Margot Robbie and Allison Janney received many accolades and praise from both audiences and critics including winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Black Swan (2010)
Similarly, the 2010 film Black Swan, directed by Darren Aronofsky, portrays a dancer’s desire to be perfect, a desire that drives her insane. The film shows a ballerina, Nina, played by Natalie Portman, and her downward spiral after landing the lead role in her company’s production of Swan Lake.
The pressure of the role becomes too much for her and her obsessive love for flawlessness, her need for her own perfection as an ode to the love of her career, leads to her delusions where she herself morphs into the swan she plays.
The movie was highly praised when it premiered with Natalie Portman receiving special acclaim for her lead role. She received many awards for her part including the Academy Award for Best Actress, BAFTA’s Best Leading Actress and a Golden Globe for Best Actress.
Another film about excessive love for one’s talent is Whiplash, a 2014 film directed by Damien Chazelle. Miles Teller plays Andrew Neiman, a jazz drummer at a prestigious conservatory in New York City.
His single-minded fascination with music led him to lose touch with his family, break up with his girlfriend and only focus on his desire to perfect his talent.
The film was highly praised, being nominated for 14 Academy Awards and taking home six.
The British biographical film, Control, follows the story and life of Ian Curtis, the singer for the British cult band Joy Division.
Another consumed artist, who pursues toxic relationships with both his wife and mistress during his rise to fame. The movie emphasizes his desire to control all aspects of his life and the aftermath of the loss of all control from his personal life to his career.
Overall this film received positive reviews at the time of its premiere from critics. Peter Hook and Stephen Morris, two of the band’s founding members, also praised the film’s creation and generally approved of it. However, Morris did refute some of its accuracies.
Sick of Myself (2022)
Coming back to the age-old story of love between two people and how it can go horribly wrong, there are also examples of control, obsession and delusion in love in recent films. Sick of Myself, written and directed by Kristoffer Borgli premiered at film festivals in 2022 and is set to be released on April 21.
The film follows a narcissistic duo, as opposed to the commonly seen solo obsessor. The couple, played by Kristine Kujath Thorp (Signe) and Eirik Sæther (Thomas), are constantly trying to steal the attention away from each other in equally unhealthy ways.
But once Signe realizes her boyfriend’s art career is taking off and the attention is slipping away from her, she takes the ‘most twisted love’ prize, when she begins to take some medication she knows will give her a severe illness.
She is willing to do anything to regain attention and control the relationship. Her narcissism is so severe that the delusion that she is really sick takes over.
This film shows explores the extremes people will go to for their twisted delusion of what love is and how they can ‘win’ at this game that they are playing.
Love According to Dalva (2022)
Another modern example of toxic love is in the film Love According to Dalva. Written and directed by Emmanuelle Nicot, the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2022 and will be released on April 28.
The film stars Zelda Samson (Dalva), Alexis Maneti (Jayden) and Fanta Guirassi (Samia) and follows a 12-year-old girl who dresses and acts like a woman, even though she really is still a child only just beginning her maturity process.
After years of being kidnapped and abused by her father, and being unable to contact her mother, she is taken away from him and forced to live in a youth shelter.
In a powerful performance by Zelda Samson, Dalva starts her recovery journey and through her relationship with other children her age and real adult figures, she discovers her childhood.
This French film displays a brave portrayal of child abuse and how one’s adolescence can be reclaimed. Her father’s abuse gave Dalva a damaged view of both the world and herself, but she is able to recover her girlhood in the end and rediscover her own self.
Love is our most powerful emotion. But it must be handled with care. Watching films like these about unhealthy love can be used as a healthy tool to show us what we would not like in our own lives and we can learn from these ‘non-examples.’
To find out more information about Sick of Myself click here.
To find out more information about Love According to Dalva click here.
If you enjoyed reading Twisted Love then why not try Strange Dance.
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