October 10, 2007
What stands in the way of love? For Romeo and Juliet it was their families.
For the virgin Queen Elizabeth it was the duty to the crown. And in Casablanca it was just one seat left on the plane to Lisbon. Classic love stories have depended upon obstacles such as class, race or religion to keep the heart-throbbing lovers apart. Yet in this modern day and age with long distance relationships fueled by frequent flier miles and pure bred religions intermixing like the labradoodle and where it's no problem to date the maid as long as she's hot, the build-up of romantic tension and dedication needed for love to come to fruition seems lost.
But here's a dilemma for you: what if you're a man who is mad for his girlfriend but he has a wife . . . and you're all together in the same concentration camp. If you long for an amazing love story, and a true one, you have to catch Steal a Pencil For Me, directed by Michele Ohayon which will be playing at the upcoming Hamptons International Film Festival.
Based on a book documenting their love letters, Steal a Pencil For Me dramatically tells the story of Ina and Jack who were deported from their homes in Holland to concentration camps during WWII. Jack and his wife were admittedly in a loveless marriage but had decided to stick it out for the war. But when Jack found out that Ina was just a few bunks down in the same barracks he could not contain his feelings and thus began a secretive letter writing campaign to express a hidden love. What makes these tokens of affection so much more vibrant is the juxtaposition of the horror of the camps and the struggle purely to survive. Instead of being a luxury, love was the elixir of life itself.
There is a moment where Jack and Ina dream of a day where they might simply sit side by side in front of the hearth on a cold night. Such a simple request, but which seemed, given their circumstances, like the height of happiness. Those of us who think a romantic moment is a bottle of champagne on top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris with fireworks going off take for granted the thrill of simply being able to hold your loved one's hand.
Pictured in the film after their survival of the camps and subsequent 60-year marriage, Ina and Jack still radiate a profound level of joy and intimacy, never having lost their gratitude for the chance to live and to love. I simply cannot imagine what they must think of "The Bachelor."
Films such as this are a reminder to us to appreciate, in a culture where everything is disposable, what we have. In one of the most moving moments of the film, Jack tells a story of having secreted away a small piece of bread and the emotional repercussions of his decision not to share it. When you see the footage of the wasting bodies of the camp inhabitants, it seems a horrible irony that women now voluntarily starve themselves to stay thin. And when you see the risks these two people took to stay connected and hope above hope to come together in the future while still doing the honorable thing (besides his wife, she had a man she had vowed to marry if they both survived the war), it helps put life and most importantly love in perspective.
And if you have a pencil, even if you have to steal it, you might think of putting down your own feelings of love in this moment with the realization that life is indeed fleeting.
You can find more of my writing at HamptonsHeather.com or drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.