Conservative Colloquium

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Sexual Attraction is Not Love: A Critique of the Movie “Closer”

Posted by Tony Listi on June 9, 2008

If you have not seen Closer, you might want to familiarize yourself with it here (will spoil the movie) or just skip this post. The style of story-telling is very clever and imaginative. The characters are powerfully portrayed by each actor. But it is the substance of the film that I am most interested in.

This movie is about 4 messed up people who cheat on each other and have no idea what love really is. It is a reflection of how dysfunctional and hyper-sexualized Western societies have become in their relationships. It is the tragic and perverse culmination of so-called sexual liberation. It is hard to find a theme or moral that is not negative in formulation (e.g. “Don’t do this!”).

Dan, Alice, Anna, and Larry are all weak, broken people. Each has their own unique faults, but all of them fail to realize what love really is. The men measure their relationships and “love” based on mere sexual attraction or in terms of power. Alice seems unable to love herself and who she is, and so she lies to herself and Dan from the very beginning. Anna is too weak to rebuff the advances of Dan and her own attraction to him, a married man. Both women prostitute themselves and thus degrade themselves. None of the characters seems to realize that love is not sexual attraction, not something that one feels. Love goes beyond mere feeling that intensifies and fades away (perhaps in cycles) with time. Love between men and women is a permanent, exclusive commitment to sacrifice for and serve one another till the death of one spouse. It is a relationship that is to be strengthened and made sacred before the eyes of God through the institution of marriage. How can love be more than bestial urges, mere irrational biochemistry, without an anchor in the Transcendent?

One line of the movie (paraphrased) stands out among others as a potential takeaway message: “Without the truth, we are nothing more than animals.” True enough. And yet Larry, the doctor character played by Clive Owen, is scrupulously honest with others throughout the film, as far as I can tell. But he behaves like a sex-crazed, vengeful animal just like the other three. He is vain and malicious. For all his honesty, he is a monster. So if the message of the movie is merely “tell the truth,” that merely begs the question: what is the truth that we should tell? How can we be honest with each other when we don’t know what the truth is?

Of course, the previous question is not quite the best interpretation either. Each of the characters knew it was wrong to cheat on their spouse. Each should have plainly seen how their choices, actions, and approach to sex and love were destroying their lives. Guilt was no mere “social construction” for the four. The real question is this: how can we be honest with one another when we aren’t honest with ourselves, when we don’t heed the moral truths written on our very hearts that are confirmed by human experience and history?

It has been said that art is a reflection of life (among other things); Closer, sadly, probably is a reflection of real life in many Western cities, especially those which embrace modern liberalism. It is gritty, sexual realism of a sort. Because the movie accurately portrays the consequences of breaking moral laws, especially with regard to sex and marital love, I cannot help but like the movie for its honesty.

But as I’ve suggested above, honesty is not enough. There was no closure to Closer. There was no offer of a better alternative to the moral chaos and misery of these characters. There was no offer of hope. Marriage is treated as a superfluous social convention rather than as something made holy and seriously contemplated. The film is devoid of any reference to the Divine, which points the way to real Love. But perhaps one cannot expect too much of one movie. The detailed intensity of the havoc of sin in the movie (especially of a sexual nature, which is often hard to demonstrate abstractly) may be valuable enough to those who already know what the alternative is or those who are spurred to search for a meaningful alternative.

But I can’t help but think that many people are going to accept the moral chaos at face value as “a fact of life” and search no deeper. Some will conclude there is no truth, no morality, no exit. Some will watch the movie and embrace its nihilism, its poetic meaninglessness. They will embrace it as a “feel good” movie because the harsh reality was “beautifully” presented. They will take hollow comfort in the beauty of tragedy without seeking a better escape. That is what I fear. That is what I object to.

Yes, art can be an honest reflection of life but it can do better than mere honesty. Art can be a reflection of Truth. It can be a reflection of moral truths, of ideals that may never exist in full in this world but which we should constantly aim towards nevertheless because the alternative is the observable fate of Dan, Alice, Anna, and Larry. Art can be a reflection of Purpose, of meaning to our lives because we embrace certain truths. Art can be a reflection of Faith, of trust and submission to something higher than ourselves, higher than the tragedy of fallen humanity. Even the ancient pagan Greeks and Romans recognized this higher plane of art. Ultimately, if art is not grounded in Truth, Purpose, and Faith, it merely intensifies the maelstrom of confusion, chaos, misery, and hopelessness.

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58 Responses to “Sexual Attraction is Not Love: A Critique of the Movie “Closer””

  1. Jeffrey Johnson said

    Absolutely brilliant commentary on the banalities of Western civilization.

    Kudos to you, sir, I could not agree more.

  2. foospro86 said

    I wouldn’t say “the banalities of Western Civilization.” I would say “the corruption of Western Civilization.”

  3. Konflixshion said

    Foospro86,

    Your critique of the Movie “Closer” is amazing to say the least. Your post may be obscure, but I understand the gravity of what you have written here, you are truly enlightened. Although, as a side note it seems as though you write from a place in your heart that allows you to see the plot very clearly, and not just because you are a good critic or understand movies.

  4. very use full information. thank you.

  5. puller said

    the thing i had in mind about moral ethics, but couldn’t get to words. I been through this thing so called being cheated and from my experience it relies truly on the subject matters u discussed.

    brilliant sir.

  6. Lu said

    Although your view is brilliant and extremely well-presented, I do not agree. Maybe it’s because I’m still young (17)…(I know that is making my opinion less valid in a societal way, but I still wanted to point in out for whatever reason).

    I think this movie is brilliant in its nihilism, its crude, random but nonetheless true representation of the human character. Just like Anna, we humans do not truly want to be happy at times. We just screw ourselves over, contemplating at the meaninglessness of everything. I felt it wasn’t about seeking a hidden meaning behind it, looking further, but rather, looking CLOSER. I could certainly relate to how all the characters felt, however twisted, irrational and pathetic they were. Maybe the genius of the movie resides in there.

    There is no True moral code or ethics, those are religious beliefs turned into fact. Very Western. They know what they’re doing is wrong because they know the code. Yet, they cannot see what society takes for a fact. Love. They blindly tag it in most of what they do, they fight and suffer for it, yet, maybe it was never really there…

    I think the movie shows us the danger of seeking blindly something society invented, and also the danger of striding from it. In the end, we cannot win.

    Positive message?
    If there’s one, I’d say: Let us free ourselves from societal conceptions and live without defining our lives. (Maybe it’s farfetch’d though…yes that was a Pokemon =P)

    • Tony Listi said

      A message of pure nihilism can never be brilliant. It can only lead to despair and evil.

      There absolutely is one true moral code, which is not dependent on society at all. They absolutely DO NOT know what love is, DO NOT fight for love, and DO NOT suffer for love. They do not seek to serve each other but to serve themselves. Just because they are ignorant and self-centered doesn’t mean love doesn’t exist. Love was not invented by society.

      • SC said

        I beg to differ given the vast diversity of loving expression found across the globe. Believing that there is one true love that transcends society is very Platonic and very ethnocentric because I bet your conception of pure love is our society’s moral ideal.

        What I enjoyed about this movie is how easily these characters fell in and out of love. It was a revelation. Yes, we can sit here all day long and criticize what they’re labeling their feelings as because it leads to dysfunction and surely Pure Love leads only to happiness and fulfillment. But the reality is that if you find yourself in a wonderful relationship and feel a particular loving feeling that you label as Pure Love, there is no way that you can say with any certainty that people in the wrong kinds of relationships don’t feel an identical if not stronger emotion for their dysfunctional partners. That’s what this movie was playing at: the relativity of emotion. Now these characters foolishly prioritize their easy emotions and rest all their success on them when common sense would dictate that they should have invested in more stable and predictable social relationships. Obviously the movie deals with that fact very well.

        Love is a label everyone uses differently, that’s all. We can agree on what’s positive love, but still that’s relative to our culture. That doesn’t devalue the emotions or how they affect people, it just doesn’t give one person the moral or intellectual authority to dictate what another is feeling.

      • Tony Listi said

        No, love has an essence, and any diversity of expression of true love is bounded within that essence. If the expression entails no free will, selflessness, sacrifice, steadfast commitment, and reference to the Good, then it isn’t an expression of love at all. People use the word “diversity” to rationalize things that aren’t true.

        “Platonic” and “ethnocentric” Oh no! ::gasp:: Obviously I’m wrong because you used the adjectives “Platonic” and “ethnocentric”! I’m wrong because…I think I’m right? Your “logic” is dazzling. So does that mean people who think they are wrong are actually right? haha. Liberal psychobabble….

        Love is not an emotion or feeling; it’s an act of the will. The characters did NOT fall in and out of “love.” They fell into lust over and over again, never coming close to love. They chose not to love each other; they chose to use each other for their own selfish desires.

        Love is not a label; it’s a reality that some embrace and that some reject. Love is independent of culture because we are all human and have the same nature. No one is claiming the authority to dictate how one should feel, but there is a moral authority that dictates how people should act or not act, especially with regard to what one feels. Involuntary feelings are morally neutral because morality requires free will actions. Feelings are either based in truth or based in the fallen, selfish part of our human nature. The former feelings should be affirmed by the free will, and the latter should be rejected. We can never love or be happy if we allow ourselves to be governed by whatever emotions or feelings pop into our heads.

      • bendavid said

        I agree that love is a force of will.
        In the present age, love is equated to attraction, lust and feeling.
        Truth is, everyone is seeking true love, but either don’t know or love themselves enough, or haven’t learned how to commit to something. Especially in the present, everything comes and goes and is easy to obtain.
        I believe the movie (and play) does a good job of presenting the society we live in.

  7. betty said

    When we look closer, our lives are really more random than most of
    us are comfortable believing. And also we are more dependent on others
    than we are comfortable believing about ourselves. This randomness
    and dependency would seem to dictate that we are responsible for
    formulating a code of honor and love for ourselves and to seek others
    who share the same???? To me this movie was about the absence of
    this kind of responsibility. Love everyone else’s comments, too.

    • Tony Listi said

      No, we are not responsible for “formulating a code of honor and love for ourselves;” we are responsible for acknowledging and obeying the code of love and honor that already exists supernaturally. Man-made codes of “love” and “honor” cannot be binding on anyone else because no man in himself has greater authority than any other. Self-delusion doesn’t work.

      • Katie K said

        Are you a religious person by chance? Do you really believe someone raised outside of society with no direction on where to base their opinions would have the same morals and ethics – and honour as people within society? I think we are all influenced by society and are groomed to believe and define. We’re taught we can be wrong, and that feeling anything other than emotions depicted to be good and healthy, comfortable and caring, leads us to destructive ends – not because they are not supernaturally honourable but because we’re told they are not. Like a placebo. Self-fulfilling prophecy.
        The characters act on what they want, but are left confused because what they’re doing and where they are is deemed to be unhealthy for themselves and that thought alone makes them sick.

      • Tony Listi said

        “Do you really believe someone raised outside of society with no direction on where to base their opinions would have the same morals and ethics – and honour as people within society? I think we are all influenced by society and are groomed to believe and define.”
        No one can deny that society and culture influence what people believe, but human nature doesn’t change and reason can open the eyes to contradiction. Everybody of normal ability has the potential to transcend the customs and habits of society and culture if they care enough to seek the truth and its foundations.

        Morality and human nature are not socially constructed. Otherwise, morality and human nature would not really exist at all. There would be no purpose and meaning in life, and cruelty would be just as good as love. I willfully reject that logical conclusion because it is intellectual suicide. Moreover, I have experienced love. It is real and not of human/social origin. Our bodies and souls have a nature embedded within them; it is because of who we are that morality derives its existence. Being comes before and determines ethics. Who we are as sexual beings determines sexual ethics.

      • Katie K said

        Ah, as a side note, I found this link in google, didn’t really read into the site, so I guess disregard that first question.

  8. J said

    this is a brilliant article, bringing the ethics of art and moral chaos together, thank you

  9. Iain said

    Have to disagree with your review – whilst not without it’s good points it misses some fairly major ones. Whilst being unfaithful does lead the characters to unhappy endings, the film is far from nihilistic.
    Rather than taking away the line ‘Without the truth. we are nothing more than animals’ as the main line of the film, I’d say Alice’s ‘You’ve always got a choice, I don’t know when yours was but I bet there was one’ is much more telling. It agrees with your point that love is something built from actions and is not just lust, but much of the film is about the balance between the materialistc body/emotions/the given and storytelling/art/actions – that’s where I’d say you’re missing some directions.
    A few examples: ‘Alice’ isn’t Portmans characters actual name, Jane is – she take the name Alice Ayres from the plaques of people who’d given their lives saving others. Dan writes obituaries, ie. has to work out who people are/were as subjective people. Larry is a doctor ie. tends towards what can be know about the physical body (and incidentally is stronger/more alpha than ‘pretty’ Dan). Anna works in photography, capturing outer appearances. Each of the characters represent different directions, and while I haven’t worked out how they all interact (I came across this searching for an analysis that might save me much time working it out) I’d say your review fairly glosses over this aspect of the film.

    • Tony Listi said

      While you make an interesting observation about how each of the characters represents one aspect of looking at human beings, you don’t really prove that there is no nihilism in the movie.

      You try to contradict the assertion that the movie is nihilistic by pointing out that Alice emphasizes choice, but the fact of the matter is that nihilism and existentialism, which does focus a lot on human choice, are intimately related. A narrow focus on choice without any assertion of what SHOULD BE CHOSEN leads inevitably to nihilism. What’s the use or good of human choice if there is nothing certain, true, or beautiful to choose? The movie presents nothing as certain, true, or beautiful.

      • bendavid said

        The movie does not show an important element of the play. In the end, Alice was hit by a car and died. It’s only implied in the film (light turns to red just as she crosses the street). Afterwards, the rest of the characters come together and discuss how they never really knew her.
        The play illustrates that people want the same thing – honesty, real relationships – but are so immersed in their own identities (or lack of it) that they feel to achieve it.

  10. D said

    Have any of you noticed how dan is a cry baby and sees love with only emotion. Larry sees love as pure lust. Dan lies all the time as does Alice and Anna. Alice lies to Dan while she tells the truth to Larry, as does Anna. Dan can’t handle the truth–the women don’t want to hurt his feelings. Larry can handle the truth even though it does hurt his feelings. Larry is more emotionally mature than Dan.

    Love is this fluid thing that’s soft and pliable, to Dan. Hes always looking for different ways to experience emotions of love–a junkie. Larry isn’t a love junkie. Both women love Larry, both women leave Dan. In the end honesty and strength wins over sappy emotions and squirminess. Notice how Dan is afraid of Larry. Can Dan primally protect either woman? No. The larrys of the world will demolish him. The dans of the world are who women go to when they need an emotional boost, and go to the larrys.

    Perhaps as women age they get fed up with the larrys because they’re a dime a dozen, they’re common. And yet that rush is intoxicating. They may marry and stick around with the dans because they can bully them.

    Men and women are all different, some women need the larrys in their life because life was too melancholy and nothing is moving. The larrys get things moving. The Dans beautify the world.

    Watching this movie on the ideas of love is one way of looking at it. Look at who gets the girl! Reading these comments make me think how many people see love as weak. How this movie portrays love a fickle. Ninon de lenclose writes about love being fickle. And too much love is taken for granted. I may love a woman for a long time and it will eventually habituate. It will be taken for granted. Imagine love going through a cycle similar to that of a female orgasm. Rising slowly and flattening out, rising more then flattening out, and the intensity rises as time goes on until a release comes, only to start from the beginning. The Dans of the world keep the same pressure on love and theres no release! Love must be tested. Dan failed with both women. Larry tested love and love won out. Love isn’t what one person thinks it should be. It may be divine, it may be spiritual, and it may be purely physical. It must be everything. It must be tested.

    How many women have been disappointed when a man doesn’t stand up for her, to her? There are times when we must back off and fight another day, and those times are best to do that. And from experience there are very few moments like that. the moment to defend my woman is now, and she must feel protected during all times I’m with her. If at any moment she feels that I’ve lost my masculine integrity her attraction drops slightly. Getting the slight drop in attraction back is challenging and perhaps improbable if the man himself is weak in his resolve. If he sees the woman as just needing love and nothing else then he will be dissappointed and so will his woman.

  11. Val said

    I was redirected to this post after I encouraged a friend to watch the movie Closer with me. I am a film student. I will copy and paste the reply I wrote to him.
    Note: I did try to make the post as brief as possible to said friend.

    “awww man I really disagree lol.

    Alice never cheated to begin with… she stayed faithful throughout the entire film.. when she slept with Larry, both he and her were single…

    Next, I think Larry truely loved Anna.. so much that he’d do almost anything to keep her.. and he did that knowing how powerful sex as a tool is.. Larry and Anna was no love at 1st sight like Alice and Dan..

    I also think the person who wrote this should stop watching Disney… Why do movies always have to have some moral correctness to end or some sort of closure? Most life instances don’t even give you that… you just learn from your mistakes and move on from your mess.

    and hell yea there is beauty in tragedy.. I mean, who wants to watch an ugly or unentertaining film? Then the whole film itself would be pointless right? Who would sit throughout till the end? You actually NEED conflict in films..

    But I think it’s impossible to miss the face-value message, “There are consequences when you cheat, if you do decide to” and “What exactly really is love?”.. and I’d totally understand if people missed the underlying message ’cause they are in denial about their own habits (habits which the film remind them of).. “Western society is becoming more and more shallow and the sacredness of relationships is becoming scarce.”

    One thing I do agree with though is that “art is a reflection of life”… but I think the writer of this post mistakes the word “reflection” for “carbon copy” and seems to forget that at the end of the day it is still a film that is meant to make money.

    AAAHHHHH ! It all makes sense now.. I just read the name of the forum, “Conservative Colloquium.” Conservative thinking indeed! Then they should not comment on this film as it is in no way conservative!”

    • Tony Listi said

      “Alice never cheated to begin with… she stayed faithful throughout the entire film.. when she slept with Larry, both he and her were single…”
      Did you even read my review? Never did I say that Alice “cheated.” A person who has sex outside of marriage can never be “faithful” or loving. Sex outside of marriage is use and abuse.

      “Next, I think Larry truely loved Anna.. so much that he’d do almost anything to keep her.. and he did that knowing how powerful sex as a tool is”
      Wow, you really show how absurd and contradictory your thoughts are here. Anyone who uses sex as a tool to possess another person DOES NOT LOVE.

      “I also think the person who wrote this should stop watching Disney… Why do movies always have to have some moral correctness to end or some sort of closure? Most life instances don’t even give you that… you just learn from your mistakes and move on from your mess.”
      Movies, like all art, should proclaim truths and ideals, either directly or indirectly. I don’t think you really took seriously what I said about this movie, especially my praise of it. There is nothing wrong with showing how immorality wrecks people’s lives, but there is a danger in doing only that and leading people into suicidal, meaningless, purposeless nihilism.

      “There was no offer of a better alternative to the moral chaos and misery of these characters. There was no offer of hope. Marriage is treated as a superfluous social convention rather than as something made holy and seriously contemplated. The film is devoid of any reference to the Divine, which points the way to real Love. But perhaps one cannot expect too much of one movie. The detailed intensity of the havoc of sin in the movie (especially of a sexual nature, which is often hard to demonstrate abstractly) may be valuable enough to those who already know what the alternative is or those who are spurred to search for a meaningful alternative.

      But I can’t help but think that many people are going to accept the moral chaos at face value as “a fact of life” and search no deeper. Some will conclude there is no truth, no morality, no exit. Some will watch the movie and embrace its nihilism, its poetic meaninglessness.”

      The movie isn’t real enough because it ignores the reality of hope and love that can be found only in its fullness in Christianity, in the example of Jesus Christ.

      “hell yea there is beauty in tragedy”
      No one is saying there isn’t. But there is no beauty in nihilistic tragedy. In fact, “nihilistic tragedy” is an oxymoron. Tragedy presumes ideal truths and goods that are missed or absent, otherwise we would not be affected by them. Tragedy is not merely presenting human life as it often happens.

      “but I think the writer of this post mistakes the word “reflection” for “carbon copy” and seems to forget that at the end of the day it is still a film that is meant to make money.”
      No, I make no such mistake and have no such forgetfulness. Again, did you actually read what I wrote or are you incapable of understanding my words?
      “Art can be a reflection of Truth. It can be a reflection of moral truths, of ideals that may never exist in full in this world but which we should constantly aim towards nevertheless because the alternative is the observable fate of Dan, Alice, Anna, and Larry.”
      The fact that I say “that may never exist in full in this world” proves that I don’t believe art should be a “carbon copy” of life but rather transcend human life to reach for ideals.

      How on earth does anything I’ve said give evidence that I’ve forgotten that movie makers want to make money? The fact that movie makers want to make money has no bearing on the philosophical and moral issues I discuss here.

      • Iza said

        Just because you believe in Christianity, doesn’t mean you need to crusade your opinions as fact… Your reality isn’t everyones reality, the world would be a boring place if we all had to listen to one interpretation especially if it was from such a defensive position. Lots of people have sex outside of marriage and lead a happy fulfilled life. This is a forum for sharing opinions, not forcing your religious morals pushed onto you from society/your parents onto everyone else.
        The movie was excellent to me… Not gonna even bother going into why, now that I think of it. Many thanks for all of the thoughtful and insightful posts, let me see new aspects I hadn’t thought of before!

      • Tony Listi said

        Christianity is fact and reality for everyone, not mere opinion, whether people acknowledge it to be so or not. The reality of human nature is what it is; love is what it is. We cannot change the objective meaning of love by mere will. If you choose to reject the objective meaning of love, then you will suffer and be unhappy. All the sexual pleasure and egoism in the world, all the selfish using of other people, will NEVER add up to happiness, never, as hard as you might try to make it so. Sexual behavior outside of marriage can be nothing other than unloving use and egoism, and that can never lead to happiness or fulfillment, despite claims to the contrary. The human body and human sexuality has such a greater dignity than to be used like a commodity!

        YOU are the one who has had perverse values and beliefs pushed onto you by society. YOU are the one who has swallowed wholesale the lies of our society’s culture, trapped in your limited view of time and space. Your modern neo-pagan religion of sexua egoism is so old and is the real danger, the real enemy of love. I live and believe in opposition to present society and culture which glorifies sexual egoism. And my beliefs absolutely do not come from my parents. YOU DON’T KNOW ME OR MY PARENTS. Such presumption you have!

        Deep down inside everyone understands (or can understand) the difference between being loved and being used. All of us have experience being used, though unfortunately many people may not have experienced true love, true sacrifice and self-denial for their sake. The difference between love and use is not something one necessarily needs religion to know; we know the difference in our hearts, though decadent culture tries to obscure the difference and destroy love. Look inside yourself for the difference between love and use, between love and a business transaction equivalent to prostitution.

        The world would be inevitably condemned to be a terribly lonely, depressing, chaotic, and violent place if there wasn’t one objective reality that we all share, regardless of whether we acknowledged and submitted to it or not. Suffering and unhappiness come from rebellion against reality, the objective reality of human nature and love. The movie Closer demonstrates that quite clearly without leading us to a better understanding of that objective reality.

        “This forum” is for the truth. And I allow others like yourself to state their false opinions so that they may be contrasted with the truth. And just because someone says the truth does not mean they are “forcing” the truth on anyone or that the truth is being “pushed onto” anyone. If writing out my beliefs with confidence is “force.” then your confidence in contradicting them is equally “force.” Stop bullying people into silence by falsely accusing them of “force.” I will not be silent, for views such as yours cause great suffering and unhappiness.

    • bendavid said

      This is where things can get tricky as we can introduce “moral relativism” into the topic.
      Nowadays, as people move away from faith and religion, the societal belief is do “whatever works or makes you feel good”.
      In business, in family / spousal relationships, dishonesty is rife.
      I’m not saying it exists just now – it has been here since ancient times, otherwise it won’t be condemned in the Ten Commandments. Only that society seems more accepting of transgressions.
      What people don’t perceive is that moving away from restrictions, does lead to a breakdown of society. You have businesses that take millions of dollars away from people, leaving them penniless. You have single parents and neglected children because of divorce.
      Laws and restrictions are not there to stop you from having fun, but to protect you and others from being harmed.
      Cheating might be fun for the cheater but is devastating to the cheated. The long term effects can be damaging in ways we don’t know.
      By accepting this as normal, we actually have less feeling, not more. If you see someone as just passing entertainment, and don’t regard their feelings, you dehumanize them.
      Similarly, if you find it ok to have a relationship with someone who’s already committed, it shows you don’t think much of yourself.
      This leads to a devaluation of self and others, and is not what is best for each person. The best thing is still to be in a good relationship that has trust. Studies show that commitment can lead to better health, so this is not just from a moral viewpoint. It’s practical. All humans need closeness, and not getting it leads to frustration, stress and health issues.
      For those opposed to a “Christian” viewpoint, ruminate on this survey: almost 50% of married people (of either sex) have cheated, but 80% think it’s wrong. Why do they think it’s wrong? Is it because of what society tells us? Or is it because of our own conscience?
      Nowadays people seem to think that the conscience is just a social construct. I leave people to think on that. But if you don’t believe in conscience, then think of the importance of having a structured society where people are protected from each orher’s whims. Society will not survive long if people keep doing only what feels good.

  12. Kyle said

    The movie itself a masterpiece…

    It show us difference between men and women, but all about love, sex, and honour. Before comments we need to extract some scenes out of the movie.

    *****
    Everything what touches Dan is fake.
    1. The name Alice Ayres is made by Jane Jones which is /Natalie Portman real name on this movie/, but she tells her real name to Larry, in strip club. We see her real name on the scene where she passes through the US customs. Dan knows her as Alice only.

    2. Chat over the internet. Dan uses fake information, everything he types in there is made by himself. But Larry tells his real name as Larry, as it is.

    *****

    Women think that sex is situation dependent, they give shit about it’s meaning.
    Men think that sex is powerful tool. They care it as a act of honour.

    *****

    It’s about western civilization, not about whole world

    *****

    At the end of the movie Dan sees on the memorial where he visited it at the beginning of the movie with Alice/Jane, a note that says Alice died during the act of saving 3 children from fire. The producer compares Dan, Anna, Larry as a kids who are not capable of helping themselves in this cruel world, and Alice/Jane helped them to sort it out.

    So, everyone has unique life path, unique experience and unique understanding of sex and love in the very inside. That’s why there is no one best answer for everybody.

    Thing is we all trying to understand what the producer felt and thought.
    My catch is he wants us to see those situations, emotions and points of view, and compare to yours.

    We must forgive, forgive and again forgive, coz people make mistakes again and again. Movie starts with Alice crossing the road on do not cross sign, and she does again at the end, but this time her destiny is not up to send her to some 3 kids to save them. Our life is not dependent. Whoever strong or rich, dies anyway.

    Most of all life is much more beautiful that this movie. Life is uncontrollable, mess and beauty of this we can forget, and get what you want from that fucking mess.

    • Tony Listi said

      No, there is one best answer for everybody; it’s called love. The problem is that either none of the characters know what love is or none of them want to love.

      Life is NOT beautiful because it is a mess; life is beautiful because we can rise above the mess through love. Life is not about merely trying to “get what you want from that fucking mess.” That’s nihilism. That’s disgusting, repulsive, and cruel. That’s using people, not loving them.

      The movie is very real but not real enough because there is no love depicted in it.

      • Alex said

        I just saw the movie and it is as real as a movie can be. It carries a simple message really: love is only part of our imagination and it is temporary, not just in the western side of the world. And in this world only the people who are sly enough get what they want, just like Larry.

        And nihilism is the best answer we have come to so far as a civilization. It is the least hypocritical of everything else. Much less abused concept than religion or the type of love it proclaims so often. That’s why great majority of the best philosophers embraced nihilism, because they saw the hypocrisy and lies behind every aspect of society. Accepting it means to admit our ignorance about meaning and purpose, and admitting ignorance is the first step towards knowledge.

        Now, I wouldn’t swear on love that much, because deep down there all types of love are selfish,(even love that does not include sexual attraction is selfish) except for the unconditional universal love which is only a concept and not reality. It is a concept vaguely implied in “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Hemingway and some other literary works. There is a long way of spiritual growing before that concept becomes reality.

        As far as faith and religion go, I understand why people respond to them. But I am most amazed at people who still visit and become members of organized churches – the same organizations responsible for the biggest massacres in the history and the cause of much suffering even today.

        As for the existence of a divine, all powerful being, considering what’s happening in the world we live in, it is much easier to prove the existence of his evil opponent, the devil, than he himself. And a simple question: Why doesn’t he scientifically prove himself , just like he supposedly did very often in the past, and thus bring immeasurable benefit to humanity?

        I just touched the surface of very complicated but essential subjects and I urge every one of you to do your own research.

      • Kyle said

        Thanks for your opinion.

        I didn’t say there is a love in this movie. It’s good movie coz there is mentality issues, moments, emotions, that exists in this life.

        And don’t say that life isn’t mess, it’s mess all around us. But I still love to live. U don’t get what you want just like potato coach. You play clean and dirty, that’s for sure, we all sinners. You might even don’t know where the real lines are. Me too.

      • Tony Listi said

        If the message of the movie is that “love is only part of our imagination and it is temporary,” the the movies is full of lies. Love is real; I’ve experienced it. I wish more people would experience true love, faitful and sacrificial.

        Nihilism is NOT “the best answer we have come to so far as a civilization.” Hopelessness, purposelessness, violence, selfishness, etc. is not the best answer at all.

        Nihilism is not “the least hypocritical of everything else.” If you truly believe in nothing, then any argument by you about truth vs. falsehood and right vs. wrong logically becomes hypocrisy. To say “nihilism is the best answer we have come to so far as a civilization” is itself hypocrisy. Nihilists are the biggest hypocrites ever; I’ve never met one who didn’t make statements regarding truth vs. falsehood, right vs. wrong.

        By the way, do you not understand that a philosophy itself can’t be hypocritical? Only people can be hypocritical. Philosophies can be inconsisent but not hypocritical. Hypocrisy requires a person with free will who professes to hold certain beliefs but acts contrary to those professed beliefs.
        You are confusing yourself by saying certain philosophies are or are not hypocritical.

        “Best philosophers”? You mean the most unhappy and depressed ones, right?

        Saying there is no purpose or meaning to life is not “the first step towards knowledge;” it’s the denial of all knowledge and truth altogether.

        True love, free from selfishness, is a reality here and now, though perhaps not consistently any person except God and those united to Him in heaven.

        Nihilism and its offspring of statism (Nazism and Communism) are “responsible for the biggest massacres in the history and the cause of much suffering even today,” not organized religion.

        If you don’t understand love and suffering, you can never begin to understand God and His ways.

  13. trent dermont said

    Love isn’t real people. It’s like religion, a fantasmic construct.

    • Tony Listi said

      This comment illustrates precisely what is so terribly wrong with modern culture and society. And people wonder why there is so much crime, sexual assault, pain, psychological disorders, depression, suicide, selfishness, etc….

      But I like the comment because it implies the truth: true love IS a product of religion, the Christian religion. True love is founded upon faith, not reason, though it is not contrary to reason (whatever that would mean). Remove the Christian religion, then you remove love.

      • Iza said

        Dude, seriously. Christianity is man made, so your comment makes no sense, and is completely disrespectful to people who are not religious!
        The film certainly points to the fragility of the human psyche… Confusion vs clarity, honesty vs deception ( with themselves and others), and their fight to make sense of all of the chairs inside them. This is an accurate portrayal of different ways of being with ourselves and with others.

      • Tony Listi said

        Love is divine, not man-made. Your ideology of sexual use, egoism, and selfishness is man-made and evil. We should love each other, not use each other for our own personal pleasure.

        It is not disrespectful to tell the truth and call others to live by the truth for the sake of their own happiness. It would be disrespectful to withhold the truth from another human being who is in desperate need of it. Your ideology of sexual use, egoism, and selfishness is what is really disrespectful, treating human beings like animals who are incapable of self-control, self-sacrifice, and love.

      • Julian said

        Hi Tony, just wondering how is it that you are so sure that you have found the truth about love.

        Isn’t it a little pretentious to think that your answer to what love should be is more valid than the answer of those of other religions or people with their own beliefs and views of the universe? -remember that christianity now a days represents roughly a third of the population, and is even decreasing-

        Tony, I don’t mean to say that love depicted in the christian religion is not a valid answer, it could be a valid answer, and I know you think it is the answer, but I would like to direct the conversation to my initial question, and not towards religion: How is it that you are so sure that you have found the truth about love.

        From what I’ve heard many people claim to have experienced it as well with such fervor as yourself (myself included) but have different views.

      • Tony Listi said

        The validity of a religion or worldview does not depend on how many people believe it. Many people are misguided and ignorant about many things. Most of the world doesn’t think about these things; they are too distracted either by poverty/subsistence or by luxury.

        How am I so sure? Because my view of love and sex is logically coherent (internally and self-referentially) and asserts human dignity for myself and everyone else, rather than treating human beings like mere animals, sex toys, or consumer commodities to be merely bought, sold, and enjoyed.

        Anyone who enjoys being used or confuses use for love has very serious psychological issues.

  14. Andrea said

    I must agree with the first comment made but I believe it goes deeper than merely a degradation of society, which would imply blame with all characters involved. My intrigue was sparked by the phrase “she cannot love herself”. What we see in the film and play is the orbiting of several psychological issues within the characters. If the character Alice is truely unable to love herself and all behaviour stemming from this truely upsetting psychology causes the defilement of her life and others, is it her fault? Did she or any of these characters decide one day to be psychologically damaged or is it an effect of their life experiences or damages. My point is simple I suppose, I agree with the first point almost in its entirety except for the implication that the characters had any will in their actions. Yes they may be easily called any sorts of names but I wonder where society can go from here. A society made up of Alice’s. I see no blame, only sadness for those trapped in such a life…because I believe if they could just stop, they would.

  15. Andrea said

    I would also suggest that Alice’s character has BPD.

  16. brandy said

    The movie made me angry. It showed how men think its OK for them to cheat and lie but when done to them they can not forgive. Was good enoff to watch 2 x’s.

  17. […] Sexual Attraction is Not Love: A Critique of the Movie “Closer …Jun 9, 2008 … If you have not seen Closer, you might want to familiarize yourself with it here ( will spoil the movie) or just skip this post. The style of story-telling … […]

  18. Ashley said

    This is my favorite movie. I love the demonstration that love is merely a cycle that is ever changing thus providing opportunity to fall in and out of love as onejourneys through life. Most don’t like to admit it. We all know it is true.

    • Tony Listi said

      The movie depicts of a bunch of people using each other, not love. Love is commitment to the good of another person, not a cycle of using and throwing away other people like trash. There is no truth about love in this movie, only about the absence of love.

      • dewolfe said

        This is a very good movie. Toni needs to get a real job and give it up on telling everybody else what love is. I heard the Taliban have an opening. Talib by the way means student in Arabic. Tony’s very bright and would be a good student. He’s got a lot to learn and he’s not going to like it. And of course by all means blame it on Western culture. Many of the comments were very impressive but you all so need to travel and see the rest of the world. See how great those other cultures are and after you get back from your travels take some science classes, I mean by that the philosophy of science with a dash of comparative theology. And don’t forget to make some time for a good movie.

      • Tony Listi said

        Sexual users/abusers (like yourselves?) have much more in common with the Taliban than the Catholic Christian. The Taliban treat women like property; sexual users treat women like commodities to be used and trashed when they no longer satisfy oneself. (I took Arabic for three semesters in college; I know what talib and taliban mean.)

        I’m not going to give up anything. We’d all be much happier in a world where everyone loves each other rather than uses each other. It’s not about what I personally like or don’t like. One doesn’t need to travel the world to learn what love is; one merely needs to see and respond to the inherent dignity in the people already around us.

        The science of human biology is very much on my side. In the sexual act, man and woman biochemically bond because of oxytocin and vasopressin. It is harmful to engage in an act that naturally bonds you together with another person in a powerful way and then unnaturally break that bond; it’s cruel to do it deliberately in full knowledge of the consequences. The marriage bond should come before this biochemical/psychological/emotional bond for the sake of happiness.

        And I have a real job, thank you very much. I don’t understand why people attack other people they don’t know on the internet.

  19. Ginq said

    Hello.
    Tony, I read your writing and comments.
    THANK YOU for giving me good opinion.
    Actually, it really helped me..
    I also watched the closer and felt it’s just emotion without love. However I can’t get the answer what love is in woman and human.
    When I read “love is commitment to each other.” And “not using people like trash but loving them” these words is very impressive.

    I have boyfriend who have met for five years.. I love him and want to make an effort to faith.
    But sometimes I feel emotion from a stranger. That’s why I google about the closer and here. From your insight, I can get the answer.
    Indeed, thanks.
    I want to see you in the heavens. Bless you.

  20. Jaanika said

    I don’t think it is right or fair to say that only people who believe in Christianity can experience the true love, because there are so many beautiful things one can believe in. It doesn’t have to be religion (there are many as we all know, not only Christianity) it could be art (music, beautifulness of art, of tragedy), it could be some person you admire.. anything. And if a person finds himself happy and satisfied by believing into something I don’t think it’s wrong IF it isn’t Christianity and the concept of God.

    It is said that one can only love if one loves itself and others, the whole world, otherwise one couldn’t say truthfully that one loves at all. I think it is logical and true and while not loving yourself and maintaining your independence you can’t be able to love, you’ll confuse love with some other emotion or so.
    But it’s only what I think and anyone could understand and see “love” as they want to, I don’t think that with such pure and beautiful and on the other hand destoying emotion one could say that someone has interpreted it the wrong way. I think it has so many interpretations and if one believes in them they become true.
    So I don’t think that there is only one true interpretation or understanding of love, which you, Tony, wanted to say.

    • Tony Listi said

      I never said “only people who believe in Christianity can experience the true love.” It is possible to experience true love without subscribing to the philosophy/religion that grounds and explains its reality.

      Without the true God, things like art, music, theater, etc. have no meaning or purpose; just atomic matter in motion. Happiness is an illusion without God.

      “if one believes in them they become true” No. We must believe in true things if we want to be happy; our belief does not make things true. Let’s not delude ourselves. If we believe we can make something true just because we want to believe in it, then we will make ourselves unhappy. Reality will not oblige us.

      The most profound and sublime kind of love is found in Christian love, total self-giving, self-emptying, and self-sacrifical love, in and through suffering.

  21. Iza said

    A very intelligent, respectful, open-minded, thought-provoking response Janinka. Thoroughly enjoyed, thank you!

  22. It’s not supposed to be didactic- there is no message save for that you come up with yourself through observationa dn analysis- you are shown scenes and dialogue that start and then come to an end- it is up to you to understand it and take from it what you will- how can you criticise a film/play for not being didactic? Especially when you seem to understand the play from a subjective perspective- if you watch the film and reject the modelf of intimacy shown, then well done, you have come to a conclusion that is right for you… Why do you need the text itself to tell you what to think when you can obviously think for yourself? No art should be didactic or moralistic- you yourself are the gatekeeper to your own thoughts and feelings- onlyu you can decide what a piece of art says to you.

    • Tony Listi said

      Who said that I wanted it to be didactic? Good and beautiful art is grounded in the truth and actually illustrates the truth without being didactic. Such art shows rather than tells. Seems to me the movie Closer just didn’t show enough of the truth; it didn’t show any love, humility, forgiveness, redemption, etc.

      We are all human beings and share a common nature, so there are certain things that are true and right for all of us, for everyone. Good and beautiful art illustrates those things without stale didactics.

  23. JoJo said

    I intend to be short and precise. The title dictates to me: We think certain things or people are perfect at first and we think we’d do anything for them, BUT when we actually look CLOSER something changes within us, probably feelings or the perception of them, and we realise that it’s not like it used to be when we were ”far”. Then comes the disappointment and then we want to go ”far” again, in direct meaning, with that person (Dan with Alice e.g) or with another in the meaning of starting all over (Dan with Anna).

    • Tony Listi said

      That people are not perfect is a truism. It’s not interesting. It’s the implications, if any, that are interesting.

      Does it mean moments of perfection are not possible? Does it mean love is impossible? Does it mean we should not get very close to another person on a deep level? I would say no.

    • RICHARD said

      JOJO, love your interpretation of the Name “Closer”…i think you have hit the nail on the head my friend…its not all fairy dust and pixies when you get “closer”…..if we are lucky enough to find a mate that has less inperfections than the rest……one we truely love….hold on to them, treat them with love and respect…be honest….and you just might be in for the ride of your life. thx mate

  24. RICHARD said

    Ive watched the movie many times, but even morte so the scene with Larry and Anna around himasking for all the details on her affair, blow by blow. The search for honesty. this film had many meanings for me, each time i watched that scene my mind altered. I was desperate to find the true meaning here. I have found what i think to be true love…at 46 with an amazing woman, she gets a LOTof attention from other men, and Ive had to learn new tools…I had to let go of jealousy, of trying to control and let her hang with whoever…If i try to rescrict or change her i will loose i think….But oh boy is that hard….Set them free…give them roots to stay….and a reason to come back….Be a good listener, true empathy……i find myself giving a lot to her and her children without thought of return…and it comes back three fold….as much as i want to clip her wings i must let her be her own woman but know that im there 100%. HARD…….Finding true love with her is also terrifying, as my heart is very vulnerable…..the thought of us not always being together scares me….Love is beautiful, but a dangerous place too..TRUST THEM…
    good luck people…its a jungle out there..full of dangers…but we must put our hearts up on the slab….and trust…..talk to them..tell them your fears…..and pray.

  25. Lynsey Slater said

    I can’t comment on civilization, religion, ect. I offer to think of the movie in simpler terms. Yes, I’m sure it does relate to those things in many ways but you can debate it forever. In how you individually interpret it and that’s what makes it a good movie. Not many movies leave the audience to their inner selves to decide what it all meant.
    I personally feel Alice, in the end did become the person she took the name from. She helped those 3 get to the place they needed to be. Although I also think it’s just the biggest example of how everyone is a stranger. No matter how long or how well you know someone, you never completely do. Younger people may not know it yet but everyone gets that lesson eventually. Maybe BEING in love, is part of that compromise, to accept that you never totally know someone. After years of believing one thing, he or she can totally surprise you. I guess it depends on each person’s boundaries that defines what happens next. Some people can’t accept the feeling of, I didn’t know this person the way I thought. Some just can’t accept the person for who they really are because, they wanted the fantasie, the lie. Everyone each of us knows, is the person we perceive them to be, or a projection of who we want them to be.
    Alice, may be insecure for lying about herself the whole time but she was also the most honest. The most herself. She didn’t play mind games or say things she didn’t mean or have two relationships at once. She told Dan the very moment she stopped loving him. Wouldn’t that be amazing if we could all do that! Yes she initially lied about Larry but explains why and it’s an honest answer. Maybe pretending to have a different name gave her the freedom to be her most self. She also, clearly recognized when Dan is lying to see Anna yet she accepts it. She’s clearly intelligent, and perceptive. But she loves Dan and she says at the start, she doesn’t leave someone she loves. Even if he is cheating and lying to her

    • Lynsey Slater said

      So maybe Alice, is the only one who knows how to love, to accept someone with all their faults. She is the only one that proves her love by not cheating and accepting him for everything he is. Not saying she should! But that’s who she loves…
      Larry on the other hand is just, extremely intelligent and perceptive of human nature. He simple takes advantage of what he knows to get what he wants. He plays games, doesn’t accept people but manipulates them to what he wants. He was the only character completely unchanged throughout the movie. Alice may have been truthful with him about her name because she knew his nature. Or because she was in no danger of falling in love with him. It’s easier to be yourself with people your not in love with sometimes. It’s almost like, they were the two honest ones, and could somehow see each other better for who they really are as oppressed to how Anna and Dan saw them. Again, maybe this is because they didn’t love each other.

      • bendavid said

        Fascinating how the movie is still discussed. I remembered it this morning, and looking for answers, came upon this post.
        1. Regarding the meaninglessness of the film: They did not include some details from the play, such as Alice’s death in the end from a car accident. The remaining three characters discuss this (and how they thus discovered her true identity) and made several realizations about themselves. In their pursuit of love and sex they did not really get to know each other (namely Alice). They all wanted to be “closer”, but were only able to see an image of a person, a reflection, a mask. It shows that people do want intimacy, but get only an image or idea of it. If they are frustrated with what they have they seek intimacy elsewhere.
        The irony of it is that the movie does the same. It retained the beauty of the dialogue, but not the soul of the play, which was embodied in Alice. Her soul was revealed only when she died. Thus it comes off as pretty but meaningless.
        2. Art as real life. I liked the movie because it portrays life as it is. It’s ugly, it’s painful, yet how artistically it was done! Maybe the gorgeous actors helped. That’s what art is supposed to do. It will not tell you to do the moral thing, it is a work that is supposed to evoke visceral reactions. In this case it succeeded in a way. Despite the beauty of the characters, the emptiness of their inner lives is evident, and you realize that like them, you want more. You want truth, and reality. But art is a good way to escape.
        3. Unfaithfulness, dishonesty. From the start we have all forms of dishonesty. Alice lied about her identity, Dan and Anna cheated, and Larry was deceitful in the pursuit of his goals. None of them are commendable, but this is who people are.
        I now allude to the Christian aspect. Of course, unfaithfulness is never acceptable. But who remains faithful? Jesus said that even if you just think lustfully of another person, you still commit adultery (in your heart). He puts people to a higher standard. Naturally it is not the same as putting thought to action and sleeping with someone, but the point is this: you cannot put yourself above others and say you never lied or cheated. Every one has a bit of dishonesty. Christians are not supposed to disparage people, but to forgive them and help them see the way. By remembering our weaknesses we are better able to help others rather than discourage them about their immorality because no one is truly honest.
        In this play, all four were dishonest to varying degrees. But it also shows how lost and confused they are, except Larry and in a way, Alice.
        – Alice lied about her identity. In the play it was implied that she had a troubled upbringing, and was emotionally scarred. Thus her way of distancing herself was by hiding her real name.
        Ironically she is honest during the stripping and gives her real name. She bares her body and soul at the same time. But since she does so as a stripper, people assume that she is lying (just as Larry did). We the audience are also guilty of doing so. We think that as the stripper she would be most likely to be unfaithful but she never cheated on Dan. (She slept with Larry when both broke up with respective partners.) All she wanted was a real relationship, but being hurt in the past, she does not reveal herself. It was actually the “better” people – the middle to upper class characters – who were cheating. We come to believe that people who are more educated or moneyed are more honest, and judge those we perceive as inferior.
        At least she knew who she was. She was not confused. But she was lost, as she chose to give her love to Dan, who did not love her back as he should.
        – Larry is more similar to Alice. In the play it’s evident he came from a working class background. So despite his present occupation as a doctor with a lucrative practice, he is still rough in a lot of ways. He knows himself and quickly knows people for who they are. He knows what he wants and is not afraid to do what it takes to get it. In this way he’s honest and blunt, but also crafty, as he can manipulate people.
        He wants a real relationship, but realizing he cannot get it, can shift with the situation. When Alice plays with him while stripping, he swiftly gets down to her situation, and treats her as an object as that is how she wants it at the moment. She is in pain after being cheated on by Dan and she does not want closeness.
        He recognized how weak Anna was, and thus played on this and got her back from Dan. “In it to win it.” Yes, he was honest, but he did not care who got hurt in the process of winning.
        In the play he leaves Anna, gives up his practice and works in a hospital.
        – Anna is a weak character, she cheats for the reason that some women do. She is pursued by Dan – it makes her feel desired. She finds him better at lovemaking, unlike Larry who is rough – she is disappointed with her spouse, and seeks something better. She decides to stay with the person who seems stronger and more capable of taking care of her. Unlike Alice, she is confused, she does not know herself, and conflates her identity upon who seems nicer to be with at the moment. She takes photos, which are just images of people, and she is similar in a way – she has only an image of a relationship, an idea, and does not know how to have a real one.
        In the play she moves to the country and takes in a dog. Presumably she has become less self absorbed, and by taking care of something other than herself, she is taking steps to knowing how to have a real relationship.
        – Dan is similar to Anna, as he is weak, and does not know what he wants. He cheats for the reason that some men do – he already is in a loving relationship, but thinks he might do better and pursues someone else. In this case he does not seem sexually frustrated. However, he dreams of being a novelist and writes a book based on Alice’s life. The book fails, and this is where he’s frustrated. He falls for Anna – another image – perhaps of success and renewal. He did not love Alice and I don’t think he loved Anna, otherwise he would have left her alone. He should have been honest enough to leave Alice, but she loved him and provided a stable relationship, so he just cheated on her.
        Anna recognizes that he is not strong-minded and leaves him in the end.
        Alice truly loved him, otherwise she would not forgive him for his infidelity. But he could not forgive her for her one night stand with Larry. She left him knowing he really cannot give her what she wants, which is a true loving relationship. She wants the real thing and he is only after the illusion.
        In the play he grieves for Alice and regrets not knowing her more, and intends to fly to New York.
        All in all, a good play. It shows that people are just lost and confused. In pursuing true love we must be honest firstly with ourselves, then with others. Only if we know ourselves and our wants can we have true commitment.

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