Call Me By Your Name: the Epitome of Modern Love?

What is love? Aside from “Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more”, does anyone truly have an answer? There are so many different interpretations of love in our modern and chaotic times: does it even exist? We are told what love is by our parents, pop culture, advertisements – it’s seemingly everywhere we look. Is love a societal construct, a sales tactic, or just a fluffy word? Whatever it is, it seems to have a fluid definition – it changes from generation to generation. As our generation grows up, what does it mean for us?

Modern love is a controversial topic. When David Bowie sings “I don’t believe in modern love,” he is really pointing out that modern love is a construct of the young.  It is a living manifestation of the disillusionment with love’s old definition. This revolt swung the pendulum and defined love for the first time as casual and without commitment. The young broke off the perceived shackles of their parents’ experiences – they did away with the perfect marriage and that darling nuclear family. Desire and lust have become the drivers of love. Today, modern love may just be a synonym for casual sex. This became of renewed relevance as I recently re-watched Call Me By Your Name, a movie that truly captures the essence of modern love.

The 2017 Oscar-winning movie is set in the beautiful Italian countryside during the early 1980s and follows a ‘love’ story between a 17-year-old boy and a 24-year-old graduate student. The former, Elio, experiences a sexual awakening when the handsome new guy, Oliver, stays at his home in  countryside for work. Elio is overwhelmed with his desire for Oliver – he experiences a bout of modern love. Between the two we see long glances, a gentle caress, and an ever-growing tension. Sexuality is woven into every moment of the movie. They later supposedly ‘love’ each other, but is it true love or true lust? When Oliver becomes unavailable, Elio goes back to his steady – a friend with benefits. Throughout the movie it is evident that none of these characters were in a real relationship or even wanted one – a showcase of their freedom and their non-commitment.

Modern love is the foundation of the movie: it emphasises the dominance of sex and desire. Without lust there is no motivation for love. Elio and Oliver were never in a relationship; they had casual sex and paraded it as something greater. In today’s world – more than ever before – sexuality is the dominant force behind everything. Modern love is directly related to greater social issues of our times. It is derived from long overdue social liberalization. And like everything in the past few decades, it changed rapidly and ferociously. What will modern love mean to the next generation? As loneliness paradoxically increases in an increasingly connected world, will they want something deeper? For us, modern love is available at the swipe of a finger, but the next generation will look for something different – as we all do.

Lucia Holaskova is a first year Media and Information student at the University of Amsterdam. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of The Amsterdammer.

  • Columnist (Fall 2018)
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