"Sickly Sweet: A Call Me By Your Name Diary" (excerpt three) by Saffron Maeve

August 11, 2018

JANUARY 30, 2018

This was the first time I watched it with my best friend. We set it up in her basement (the home of many of my most cherished memories) and I distinctly remember promising her that I wouldn’t cry as I had seen it so many times. I failed to keep this promise and sobbed uncontrollably again. We talked on her couch for hours, contemplating and theorizing every aspect of the film. She’s the most wonderful person I know.

Every time I watch CMBYN, I feel more and more engulfed in its beauty. This was my fifth time experiencing it and I still shake during Michael Stuhlbarg’s monologue and the last scene. I watched it with my best friend last night because she hadn’t seen it and we just cried in silence for a good portion of it and then we talked for hours afterwards. Here are some of the topics/motifs that we discussed.

• Time — Time was the ultimate antagonist of the film. The idea that six fleeting weeks are not enough, but also too much. Some people dislike Call Me By Your Name because of its pace; they think it’s too slow and, in turn, dull. It’s this tedium, this stasis, that makes everything so ultimately painful. When Oliver and Elio are finally together, everything speeds up. The sexuality of their relationship is heightened and their comfort in one another becomes sincere and no longer surface. We all hate the ending but we need it. Nobody can speak to what Oliver and Elio would be like, had they ended up together. It’s the idea that it was a temporary, fleeting infatuation that draws in our attention. The understanding that it is all coming to a close and, because of this, every moment needs to be sacred. Elio’s watch, specifically, was overwhelming. His obsession with checking the time the night that he’s meeting Oliver speaks volumes about his fragility and vulnerability. There is a beautiful shot where Mr. Perlman hands Elio the watch, as if supporting the relationship before we even know he does.

• The peach — Everyone mocks this aspect of the film or finds it hilarious, but I am convinced that this is the saddest scene. Elio has sex with a peach and afterwards, feels ashamed of what he did. I say “what he did” because of Oliver’s line “What did you do?”; already (potentially inadvertently) inserting guilt and suggesting that Elio had done something wrong. When taking into consideration what the peach symbolizes, the scene becomes pensive. Elio is ashamed of why he had sex with the peach more than the physical act. It is the idea of being gay that is worse to Elio than actually being gay. This is noticeable when Elio cries and kisses Oliver. This is Elio acting on his desires unabashedly while simultaneously crying over the nature of his desires.

• The Star of David— The Jewish undertone of the film is beautiful. From the beginning, when Elio says “We are Jews of discretion”, it becomes very apparent how much being openly Jewish is going to parallel being openly gay. Oliver wears the star of David around his neck, something that Elio marvels at. As Oliver and Elio’s relationship flourishes, Elio also starts to wear one. The idea that being Jewish is not something to hide, the same way that being gay is not something to hide. Religion makes its way into the film at pivotal moments and I hope to pick up on it even more when I watch it next.

• “Does Mom know?” — Michael Stuhlbarg’s entire monologue is disheartening and yet, upliftingly wise, but there are some parts that stick out more than others. Like when Mr. Perlman says “I envy you” and “I may have come close but something always held me back or stood in my way”. The phrasing is ambiguous. A theory that I like is that Mr. Perlman is not heterosexual and when Elio asks “Does Mom know?”, he is not speaking about himself, he is speaking about his father. It is clear that Elio’s mother knows about him and Oliver, so why ask? Food for thought, I suppose.

“In my place, most parents would hope the whole thing goes away, or pray that their sons land on their feet soon enough, but I am not such a parent. In your place, if there is pain, nurse it, and if there is a flame, don’t snuff it out, don’t be brutal with it. Withdrawal can be a terrible thing when it keeps us awake at night, and watching others forget us sooner than we’d want to be forgotten is no better. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of 30 and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything—what a waste!”

No Comments

Post a Comment