The critics have not been so kind to Twilight, in theaters a couple of weeks now but still raking in the cash. One describes it as a “hackneyed horror show” while another as little more “than a pilot for an upcoming show on The CW network.” Another, Felix Vasquez Jr, says simply, “I was bored out of my brain.” Whether the critics are over-reacting or not, suffice it to say that we shouldn’t expect to see too much of Twilight, based on the novels of Stephenie Meyer and directed by Catherine Hardwicke, come Oscar time.
I had no problem making the decision to commit a couple of hours to such a pop culture phenomenon. I liked the movie. I wouldn’t say I loved it. But I did like it quite a bit. I’d call it this generation’s version of Lost Boys. But what I liked about it was a little surprising to me. The story was unoriginal and the “two hours traffic” are replete of any great or memorable lines. But the characters, particularly Bella, are not without intrigue and I loved the style of the film. That being said, what I found most compelling was the presence of beauty. There is the beauty of love. There’s the beauty of intimacy. There’s the beauty of life (in contrast with death). There’s the beauty inherent in emotional pain and of loss. And finally there is the presence of beauty in control, denial, and restraint.
The principal characters, vamp Edward Cullen and troubled teen Bella Swan, somehow let beauty free without physicality; explore one another without consummation. What we get is the beauty of two people—albeit young people—in love and experiencing the simple thrills of music, silence, nature, and, brace yourself, baseball alongside the high stakes of adventure, danger, and uncharted territory.
The landscape is barren Washington State. Its barren-ness making the beauty of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen all-the-more vibrant. The passion between these two characters is palpable, yet they must deny their deepest urges and demonstrate restraint. Instead of defaulting to their physical attraction—which would have been easy, they must embrace the respective mysteries of one another and take the risks, in this case potentially deadly risks, inherent uncertainty and in being vulnerable. Somehow it is within these confines that beauty is allowed to run free—something our world these days so often, and sadly, misses. Beauty is the ultimate expression of freedom.
If you asked me what Twilight is about, I’d simply answer, “Beauty.” It’s the beauty of imagination. Vampires and beauty. You’ve got to love a good paradox.
Beauty loves freedom; then it is no surprise that we engage beauty through imagination. The imagination always goes beyond the frames and cages of the expected and predictable. The imagination loves possibility and freedom is the ether where possibility lives. Uncharted territories are always beckoning. Beauty is at home in this realm of the invisible, the unexpected and the unknown.