Monday, December 15, 2008

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

     It is always interesting to see where people get titles from and this movie title is such an elegant one.  It was taken from a poem by Alexander Pope called Eloisa to Abelard.
     "How happy is the blameless vestal's lot!
       The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
      Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
      Each pray'r answered, and each wish resigned."
The poem is based on the letters of Peter Abelard and Heloise from the 12th century.  Heloise had a very hard time forgetting her passion for Abelard and accepting, following Abelard's mutilation and taking monastic vows, that it was over forever.  She took the veil according to his request but she did it out of love for him not because she felt any calling to serve God.
It is perhaps taken as the title for this movie as it is about two lovers who have had their memories erased to forget about each other but find, after their memories were wiped out, that they met again and fell in love.   Their love was fated to be and no amount of wishing it were otherwise could make it so.
       The story of Abelard and Heloise was also snuck into the movie Being John Malkovich.  You would have to know it is them to even notice their presence in the film and in the lewd puppet show.  And if you blink, you would miss the sign that announces that the marionette show is about their love story.  The puppets read the letters out loud and make gestures that eventually become offensive and cause someone to punch the puppeteers lights out. 
This clip has the sequence from 1:52 minutes to 3:27.
      It appears that there has only been one film made of their story and that is Stealing Heaven. Unfortunately it was only released on vhs format and so cannot be purchased except in used copies and certainly cannot be found at Blockbuster.  They might have had trouble with the content anyway since it is a European film and shows explicit love scenes between the two.  Well, after all, it was a hot love story and, to read Heloise's words about it in her letters, the sex was really hot.  I know it might be hard to imagine in the 12th century that people were having hot sex but this was in Paris after all.
     Some kind person has posted some clips from their video of the film so you can see a few minutes of it.  This clip is of their first kiss.  I like the fact that the film makers made Heloise a grown woman rather than a 16 year old girl because I think she was older than that.


Anonymous said...

Ah, Abelard and Heloise...gotta love them. They're like the medieval version of Zack and Mirri Make a Porno.

I think they had hot sex just as often as we do. If not, well, that's pretty boring!


Tracy said...

Guess there wasn't much else to do on a Saturday night! Trouble with hot sex in medieval times is it usually led to pregnancy and that often led to death in childbirth. And no gas and air or epidurals in those days.

The Red Witch said...

Eventually Heloise did get knocked up but if she had any difficulty in the delivery, it certainly did not dampen her desire for Abelard.

Anonymous said...

This pair is often presented as a pair of scholars who were made for each other. No wonder - Heloise was suprisingly well-educated for a medieval woman - she knew not only Latin but also Hebrew and Greek. Abelard was a philosopher, theologian and preeminent logician, a kind of teacher-celebrity in Paris, already renowned in Western Europe. He seduced her, there's no doubt about it, but she was an adult woman at that time (allegedly in her late twenties) so I suppose she just allowed it because she liked being seduced by such a man.

Who was Fulbert , though? He is often presented as a jealous uncle but it's hard to believe an uncle would plot to castrate Abelard, officially Heloize's husband at that time, reconcilled with him and the father of Heloize's son. Some have speculated that Fulbert may have been Héloïse's father, which accounts both for the unusual manner in which Héloïse was brought up (due to a possible illegitimacy), as well as the extreme measures Fulbert took to punish Abelard. Or maybe a real Heloize's father, unknown to us, decided not to put up with a marriage that had started with a pregnancy and a shame? What do you think?


The Red Witch said...

According to Abelard, he was not just a smart guy, he was good-looking too. Typical. LOL
The manner of Heloise's upbringing is definitely irregular and there is nothing in the log of the Paraclete of the death of any family members for her beyond Abelard and their son.
Fulbert has always been presented as Heloise's uncle. If he was her father, they appeared to be ignorant of that. If she was the daughter of a woman who had been associated with a scandal, then it explains the rage Fulbert felt at having his name dragged through the mud for a second time.

Anonymous said...

The problem I have with Fulbert is exactly the mud! ;) It's been often presented in different popular versions that Abelard was castrated right after Fulbert had found out about his love affair with Heloize. In fact, it was after the couple had a son and married.

To appease Fulbert, Abélard proposed a secret marriage in order not to mar his career prospects (as a married man he wouldn't be able to teach and make lectures in public). Héloïse initially opposed it, but the couple married nevertheless, so, at that point, there was no mud to be dragged through. Then Fulbert publicly disclosed the marriage; Héloïse denied it, in an attempt to save Abelard. At Abelard's urging she went to the convent of Argenteuil. Fulbert, allegedly believing that Abélard wanted to be rid of Héloïse, hit the roof and castrated him, effectively ending Abélard's career.

Why did Fulbert lead to such a dangerous situation if he really wanted the couple to stay together and his name - cleared? Was he forced to do so by Heloize's family or by Abelard's opponents and enemies?

Anonymous said...

Bridget :p

The Red Witch said...

We will never really know about Fulbert. He did want people to know they were married so there would not be a scandal to his name but marriage would have ended Abelard's career because teachers were not supposed to be married. And sending Heloise to Argenteuil looked like he was going to divorce her so then Fulbert really hit the roof. Little did he know that far from divorcing her Abelard was paying her conjugal visits at the convent.
But this is what made Heloise mad, when they were sneaking around it was okay. But once they were married and doing things legal, then the wrath of god falls on their head.

Anonymous said...

I have seen the film Stealing Heaven - I really liked it! It made me want to find out more about Heloise and Abelard. My mother actually read a compilation of Heloise's letters: Heloise and Abelard: A Twelfth-century Love Story, by James Burge. She said they were very interesting.


The Red Witch said...

Lucky!! I am hoping the film will be rereleased some day because it does look good. I read the letters with Betty Radice translating. Penguin has a really good volume that includes the letters to Peter the Venerable and some history of the couple, some maps, Abelard's Absolution, some hymns he wrote and a letter to their son, in short everything you need for the history Heloise and Abelard.