Supposedly, we are accustomed to divorce now. Though I'm not sure whether that kind of horror can be digested in just two or three generations. Once upon a time, people stayed unhappily married, and you can ascribe the exquisite furtive genius of the domestic English murder to that torture. These days, though, happiness is such a requirement - we demand it as a right. And people desperate for happiness are often more dangerous than the wretched spouse who began to think of arsenic administered over two years. He, or she, had all the time in the world then.
I was thinking of this when I saw that Harrison Ford and his wife (Melissa Mathison, who wrote E.T.) have decided to be reconciled.So, good for them. But it doesn't seem as if anything can keep Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman together. That's a hard case to read, with her baby miscarrying after their break-up. Perhaps it got to them in the end - the burden of seeming perfect, or ideal. It's difficult for actors to accept habit; they thrive on new lives and instability.
It's too old a story for sympathy, perhaps; the way movie stars end up marrying one another, because they're the only people with any chance of understanding each other's selfishness, insecurity and hope. So they divorce - and then sometimes re-marry, and divorce again. That's what happened with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor who were more intelligent, practical and given to seeing the funny side of things more than most actors. In addition to which, Liz had been married four times already when she met Burton.
You can argue that Hollywood lifestyle popularised divorce, or turned it in less than 50 years from something unknown in "our" family, our street or our class, to the skidpan of half the marriages entered into. I doubt that. Ordinary people don't copy star behaviour. But how they have tried to live up to the lives and dreams on screen. And especially the way life can change all the time in the movies.
It's not just that the movies make us giddy with the thought of falling in love so regularly. It is also the rhythm of the screen: if you don't enjoy this week's film, wait until next week's - revealed in the trailer for coming attractions. In other words, begin again. Go back to zero, re-start, take two, wipe the slate clean. Of course, minds and families aren't wiped clean. Damage leaves stain marks and burns. Nevertheless, the movies are still a darkness that shuts out real light and life.
You can't really be happy about all the …