Theme: Love in La La Land
Ever since its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, La La Land, the romantic musical written and directed by Damien Chazelle, has been captivating audiences and critics alike. Winning a record number (7) of Golden Globe awards, the film is sure to be a strong contender for the most coveted Oscars at the Academy Awards Ceremony.
La La Land is an emotional roller coaster taking the audience to great heights and deep valleys all in one hundred and twenty eight minutes.
La La Land is thematically composed around the seasons of the year. All four seasons are traversed,but significantly winter opens and closes the movie. The seasons reflect the love affair between Mia, the aspiring actress, and Sebastian, the purist jazz musician. The first winter finds them both in dead-end jobs pursuing their dreams without success. His sister calls him a hermit while her friends think she is reclusive, and their first meetings on the freeway and in the restaurant are not just cold, they are hostile.
In spring, the season of new life, Mia and Sebastian begin to sing and dance together (A Lovely Night), then encourage one another’s dreams bringing new hope, and finally fall into a romantic love affair. Summer finds their relationship in full swing but by fall, the season of decomposition, their relationship is literally falling apart.
The film concludes five years later in winter. There will be more to say about the movie’s ending, but it’simportant to note here the season of death, loss and loneliness concludes Mia and Sebastian’s story. Perhaps this is why there is a confounded silence in the theater when the credits roll.
The Great Dance
The most beautiful scene in La La Land and one which will be remembered in clips for years to come is Mia and Sebastian’s waltz among the stars. Inspired by the cosmic dance of Eva and Wall-E in Pixar’s famous movie, Chazelle taps into something which transcends romantic love.
All of creation, because it was designed by its Creator, reflects and reveals His love. Gender is woven into the creation itself: Heaven and Earth, Sun and Moon, Man and Woman.1 Romantic love is a sign pointing to the Divine Love, an earthly taste of the heavenly banquet. C.S. Lewis captures the essence of this sacred romance in his space fiction,Perelandra.
“The Great Dance does not wait to be perfect until the peoples of the Low Worlds are gathered into it. We speak not of when it will begin. It has begun from before always. There was no time when we did not rejoice before His face as now. The dance which we dance is at the centre and for the dance all things were made. Blessed is He!”
Just as Mia and Sebastian’s springtime romance and dance among the stars looks back to Eden, summer begins with a graphic picture of what went wrong in the Garden. After a discussion about a nebulous character from his past (Keith) and while Mia is on the phone with her concerned mother, Sebastian’s eye focuses on a dark stain on the ceiling of their apartment.
The stain says it all; something has entered which will spread and despoil the beauty and freshness of their love. Summer ends and the Rialto Theaterwhere they first connected hand to hand is closed.
Mia and Sebastian part at the end of fall, promising each other they will always love one another. The film concludes five years later in another winter. Mia is now a famous actress while Sebastian is the owner of his own jazz club. They have both achieved what they dreamed of but have lost each other. They come together one last time when Mia and her husband accidently stumble upon Seb’s.
Sitting down to the piano Sebastian begins to play “Mia and Sebastian’s Theme” and while he does, an alternative story is enacted on the screen, one where winter never enters and they share and live their dreams together. It is the “Happily Ever After” ending the audience wants but it ends when he finishes playing their theme. With a parting look and a nod of the head, their story ends and the silence in the theater is palpable; nobody wants to be left in winter.
The power of the alternative story should not, cannot be lost. Had Chazelle not included this, but simply had them see each other, it would not have had the same impact. The reason this ending has the power it does is because it too speaks of an eternal truth. In God’s Love Story winter does not win, nothing is lost, not even love. There is a renewal of all things, every wrong gets righted and all things are made new (Revelation 21:1-5). “In the Beginning” comes again (John 1:1) and the whole story gets back on track just the way it should have been . . . Blessed is He.
The Other Love Story
Mia and Sebastian’s love story is not the only one being told in La La Land. Quietly and unobtrusively the love story of Sebastian’s sister has traversed the seasons and years as well. Laura and her husband’s story follow the hallowed path of meeting, engagement, marriage and child bearing. Perhaps this is making a subtle statement of what love looks like outside La La Land.
Note 1: Heaven, Sun, Man are all masculine in gender, while Earth, Moon, and Woman are all feminine.