The Malta Independent 26 March 2019, Tuesday

February's extravaganza of the heart

Marika Azzopardi Sunday, 15 February 2015, 11:00 Last update: about 5 years ago

St Valentine's Day: the yearly extravaganza of the heart, a Capitalist conspiracy, or the singles' nightmare? Or it could deservedly be called a celebration of love? It is one of the most adored days, touted around the world, a big sell-out for restaurants and card-makers, and possibly the year's most heart-warming day (and night).

But does that mean we celebrate love just once a year? Certainly not - think what most of music, literature and art are all about ... yes indeed, love. Being so close to Italy makes us veritable witnesses to the most incisively heart-wrenching and epic ballads and song-writing, with crooners young and old, males and females singing their heart out over diverse love or heart-break scenarios.

The Greeks mythologized love, Italian bards invented romance, French lovers added the French kiss, Caravaggio's Cupid remains all-victorious and Raphael's cherubs in Sistine Madonna are possibly the Western mascots of everything romantic. From the time that Shakespeare staged it, Keats wound it in poetry, and the Brontës gave it a female voice. World War I saw the German lyrics of Lili Marlene being penned by a German school teacher, becoming an international symbol of war-time love years later during World War II thanks to Marlene Dietrich's sultry voice.

What about Elvis Presley, Elton John and a string of other singers who pranced along the airwaves through the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s with innumerable love songs. Then there is erotic literature and the love portrayed in films (consider Love Story for one)..... all this shows how humanity has only changed its means to the end that is love.

Here are some great moments of love in the arts, to kick off your St Valentine's fever:

Psyche revived by Cupid's Kiss, by Antonio Canova is a late 18th century sculptural masterpiece, an allegory of two personages from Greek mythology. Canova delved into the sweet, the soft and the gentle love, projected out with white, softly glowing marble and absolute affinity.

One of the greatest novels about love of the 19th century, although under a male pseudonym, was written by a woman. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë, follows the brazen love affair of Catherine and Heathcliffe, providing posterity with a Gothic classic of super-charged passion.

Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 was written in 1901, and is said to explore the many aspects of love. One thing is for sure - it's sad, it's soppy, it's romantic. And if you're intent on self-inflicting heart-break moments, nothing beats Frederic Chopin's piano music.

Another monumental masterpiece, this time from Vienna (a very romantic city itself): it is 1908, and Gustav Klimt re-interpreted a universally popular theme throughout art - The Kiss. His 'Kiss' is colourful, homely and luxurious. Its appeal and immediate recognition is immense and has influenced a great many artists and consecutive interpretations.

Film is one of today's most popular sources of our romantic nourishment. Early Hollywood romances such as Casablanca, Spellbound, and To Have and Have Not all had a great impact on the film industry, cementing romantic films as an all-time favourite film genre.

Nabokov's Lolita, is considered by many to be an early form of the erotic novel, and follows the love affair between 38 year old Humbert Humbert and 12 year old Dolores Haze, whom the former famously nicknames "Lolita". Unsurprisingly controversial upon its 1955 release, the novel now is a popular piece of the English literary canon.

On to more contemporary love films, from the 2000s - starting with Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,  a great film that  basically explores Dr Seuss's saying 'Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened'; Derek Cianfrance delivered the great Blue Valentine, about a whirlwind romance between Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams); and a film about modern life and love, Spike Jonze's Her, which, although  a love affair between a man and a computer, will break your heart very, very badly.

To finish off, let's have some love songs from last year - Ed Sheeran goes all soft and summery with Tenerife Sea; Sharon Van Etten's monumental Your love is killing me will keep you glued; Sun Kil Moon is frank and  honest as always with Dogs, Vance Joy's beachy Riptide will make you crave summer; and from the guru of heartbreak, Sam Smith with Stay with me.

So, by whichever definition you choose to define St Valentine's Day, there's never enough reason not to celebrate love, be it through art or practice. And anyway, who doesn't want to indulge in some careless whispers or free fallin'?



  • don't miss