Head In The Clouds (2004)
www.imdb.com/title/tt0338097 - Internet Movie Database
http://dvd.netflix.com/Movie/Head-in-the-Clouds/70001231 - Netflix
www.amazon.com/Head-Clouds-Charlize-Theron/dp/B0006J27WO - Amazon
This was a really good movie in general, and a decent poly movie. It takes place in 1930s Paris, for the most part, with a little bit in England and Spain. Gilda is a rich hedonist who travels the world in pursuit of pleasure and the present. She meets Guy, a British college student, who immediately falls head over heels in love with her. Gilda, who is infamous for her relationship with someone else at the school (I think it's another student, but I'm not sure), invites Guy to a party at her boyfriend's house. Guy shows up but Gilda is not present. The party quickly turns to a decadent orgy, with Guy's date becoming the "main course" upstairs. Just as Guy is about to leave, Gilda shows up and seduces him on the pool table.
For some reason, the boyfriend, when he discovers them naked on the pool table the next morning, is upset at Gilda's infidelity, but she seems totally unconcerned, engaging in a lighthearted conversation with him while lounging nude next to Guy (who is terribly embarrassed) and sipping tea. Guy finally makes his escape, and to his confusion, Gilda and her boyfriend do not break up over the incident. They do not see each other for some time.
Eventually, Gilda tracks him down again to tell him that she is leaving the country in pursuit of, well, pursuit I guess. She doesn't really know what she wants, so she seeks out everything. She requests to be allowed to write to Guy on her travels. So is spent the next year or two (I forget exactly how long) with Gilda writing to Guy, but Guy cannot write back because Gilda does not remain in one place long enough for his letters to reach her.
Eventually, Guy graduates college and becomes a teacher and develops a steady relationship with a young woman. Then, one day, Gilda writes to say she is in Paris and Guy simply must come visit her. He drops everything and travels out for a visit. When he arrives, he finds Gilda living with a producer of modern art, who arranges for Gilda's artwork to be shown around the world. That night, Gilda has a show in Paris featuring her young protege, Mia, a refugee from Spain who now lives with Gilda and her boyfriend.
Guy, confused over Gilda's seeming continued interest in both him and in her meal-ticket, leaves with no notice. Not too much later, Gilda shows up on Guy's doorstep in the middle of the night, requesting a place to crash and pissing off Guy's girlfriend, who realizes that Guy loves Gilda and not her. Eventually, Gilda convinces Guy to move to Paris and work for her as her photography assistant.
Here's where the poly part starts. Mia is still living with Gilda. Through a series of dirty looks and one scene where she watches Guy and Gilda having sex, the audience is left with the impression that Mia is in love with Gilda and resents Guy's presence. Guy seems suspicious of Mia but mostly tries to ignore it. Both seem resigned to the other's presence because Gilda wants them both around and they both want Gilda. The three of them live together for a year in relative happiness with Guy and Mia developing a friendship of their own. Some scenes show Mia and Gilda dancing very erotically together at a nightclub, Guy waking up to find Gilda and Mia gossiping while cuddling in the same bed where he and Gilda fell asleep together the night before, and many shots of Gilda and Mia being overtly affectionate with each other. One could make the case that female friendships in previous eras were always more physically affectionate without implying sexuality than they are today, but 1) I have my doubts that the element of sexuality was missing back then and 2) we are corrected about this misconception later when Mia admits to having been Gilda's lover.
This "triad" exists more or less happily for over a year. I get the impression that Gilda and Mia do not continue their sexual relationship while Gilda is sleeping with Guy, but I also get the impression that both women want to. Mia entertains boyfriends of her own, mostly off-screen. Guy is pretty well monogamous with Gilda but develops a very deep and loving relationship with Mia as they discover they have socio-political ideals in common and a strong sense of duty to their fellow man ... something that Gilda seems to lack completely with her sense of duty to herself being her foremost ideal.
One day, Guy shows up at Mia's nursing station. They embrace, relieved to find out they are both still alive. After Mia's shift, she travels to the barn where Guy's unit is stationed for the night to take comfort in the midst of the horror they are now living. Guy and Mia talk about Gilda and both confess to past jealousy of each other with her. They also both confess their own deepening feelings for each other. It is implied that Guy and Mia have sex that night.
The next morning, Mia heads back to her nursing station and is killed by a landmine close enough that Guy hears the blast and can run to the explosion. Guy is devastated and writes to Gilda who actually reads that letter.
Normally, I really hate the story lines that make one person's love for two people only possible by killing off one of the two love interests (think Pearl Harbor). That's the belief that we can only romantically love more than one person if one of them is dead when clearly this is not true, it's just the only socially-acceptable way to love two people at once. But, in this case, I do not think this was the message implied here.
Gilda already loved both of them and was already living with both of them. They had a happy little triad for over a year. Guy and Mia had not expressed their feelings for each other sexually, and I suppose one could argue that as soon as they did, Mia was killed off. But, unlike movies like Pearl Harbor, there was no personal torment about loving multiple people and no social scorn and pressure on their living arrangements. Although Guy and Mia were both jealous over each other's relationship with Gilda in the beginning, that jealousy waned as they all grew to love each other and accept that they were both in her life and that's just how it was. In their final moments before they made love, Guy and Mia both made their confessions, not with hate or anger or fear, but more in a sense of nostalgia, such as "y'know, it's kind of funny, but when I first met you, I was jealous, but now I love you" kind of way. Even after they both realized they loved each other, the audience is left with the impression that their goal is to someday get out of the war and go back home to Gilda to resume their happy family. Their love does not replace the love they have for Gilda, it enhances it, grew out of it, and they both know this. They both still love Gilda and wish to return to her.
In the '30s in Paris, no one seemed to care about the crazy, hedonistic artist shacking up with her assistant and favorite model in her apartment/art studio. There was no social backlash, no fear of discovery, no discussions of moral conflict. This little triad was just sort of taken for granted, as a given without much comment. Although it was part of the plot, it was very subtly done, much like following the lives and loves of a monogamous couple in any other drama. Their triad itself was not the source of the conflict, the clash of personalities and the political climate of pre-war Europe was the source of conflict and would have been the same conflicts had the main characters been a dyad instead of a triad.
Like Carrington, this movie was horribly depressing but treated multiple-adult relationships well. I heartily recommend including this movie on any list of poly movies and I recommend watching it just because it was a good movie (although I really wanted to shake Gilda a couple of times for her immature and needlessly antagonistic behaviour).
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