Bridges of Madison County


Call me soft and insipid, maybe gaga in my approaching age but I can see both sides in that little contretemps with Twilight and Amfortas over Bridges of Madison County.

I’ve not watched it but have seen stills, so had to go to Wiki, which concludes:

It is about the anticipation and consequences of passion—the slow dance of appraisal, of waiting to make a move that won’t be rejected, of debating what to do when the erotic heat matures into love light. What is the effect of an affair on a woman who has been faithful to her husband, and on a rootless man who only now realizes he needs the one woman he can have but not hold?” Corliss concludes “Madison County is Eastwood’s gift to women: to Francesca, to all the girls he’s loved before …

P-h-e-e-e-w-w [let’s breath slowly out]. Where to start?

There are the experiences of three people involved here and differing politics does affect outlook on issues – one a stickler for the rules, having been burnt, one more laissez-faire and “worldly”.    I’m torn.    Or put another way, for me, Amfortas represents the head ruling here and Twilight the heart ruling.

I’ve a confession – my first thoughts were, as with the tone of the post, in line with Twilight’s angle, i.e. just look at the romance, the emotion, the love but then, as Wiki put in the quote: “when the erotic heat matures into love light.”

And that’s the core issue and that’s where Amfortas kicks in and I’m afraid he’s right in this. But hell this is complicated. There is no doubt that that four day affair with Kincaid made her feel newly desired, newly wanted, alive, vindicated as a woman.

The very fact it was wrong gave it piquancy.

Yet that four day affair sits like a giant toad over their subsequent marriage, it is not put away in a box and forgotten.    Where I take exception is if the director was trying to say – and I don’t know, having not seen it and any subtleties it had – that often it takes infidelity to reboot a marriage and if he was saying that, then that is just-plain-wrong and the sentiment is wicked, as the film is to be seen by millions .

In exactly the same way, Zhivago, with Lara’s theme, celebrates the illicit love, placing it way above that of Zhivago and Tonya. The way he dismisses Tonya as unsuited, as grumpy and all those things, the way he runs from his parental responsibilities, the way audiences embraced the torrid affair in all its passion and tragedy – it can be seen as romantic if you like but it’s also embracing the breaking up of a marriage.

Zhivago, instead of summarily dismissing Tonya, instead of working with her and being a man, going through what he needed to to work out a way, decides to go the weak way instead with a damaged girl.    If I write with passion, it’s because I’ve been there on both sides of the divide.    I’ve been cuckolded and I’ve been the one cuckolding – it’s a vicious cycle.

The grass is always greener. The incumbent is always on a hiding to nothing.

I can pour money in and woo another man’s woman, turn her head with newfound attention, bordering on worship and Woman is hugely susceptible and don’t try to tell me differently – I’ve seen a woman soften before my eyes more than once and I’m no great shakes as a model of manhood.    And even in gaining that which I wanted, I realized she would do that to me with another when the time came.

Because giving way to the affair is not high and noble but is the sign of a weak character – I can say that because I’m applying it to myself.    How many times I’ve been the drifter with tales of around the world, I’ve waltzed in, to the hospitality of someone else and in the early days, things might have happened, they might not have.    But after the second time I was cuckolded, I said to myself no, never again – that’s a loser’s game.

However, what I did in a minor way, someone like Tiger Woods turned into an artform.    And if you look at Rachel Uchitel [uchitel in Russian means “teacher”], she was willing to cheat with him on his wife and agreed, there were major issues but that’s not the point.    It was her instant willingness, in the name of passion, to drop her own [what would be] later demand for faithfulness from him in order to do it which was so hypocritical.

If her attitude was that she would not try to possess his sole attentions, that she went in knowing she was just one of many, as he was to her, than that’s another issue.    That’s the indiscriminate situation we have now in society, from early teenage up and it is destroying society.

But that’s not what her utterances said.    What outraged her and also Imogen Thomas in the Giggs case, was that she discovered he was “unfaithful” to her, that all his whispered words were bunkum.    Now hang on, who exactly was being unfaithful to whom?    Because as the quote above said: “when the erotic heat matures into love light”.

It always will – it never remains as just an affair. One of the partners in crime wants more, feels the bond growing and wants what he or she cannot rightfully have.    And unless that person is a masochist, then pain and suffering are the only things coming out of it, with ever-diminishing highs of course.

So Amfortas’s logic is correct in the end.    However, you might disagree that it never remains as just an affair.    You might say that two clever people, knowing it could never be, could work out a way they could be unfaithful when they met and faithful later, though faithful to each other.

I say it corrodes character.    I’d never chide anyone on it personally, never come the moralist to their face because it would be the ultimate hypocrisy after what I’ve done.

Every person must make his or her own way but in my case, I ain’t gonna do it again, irrespective of probably never having the opportunity anyway these days.    It’s a bitter pill because the passion for a new person can be torrid, or for an unreachable person at a distance from you and yet so close.    It is, even when it reaches the day-to-day stage or routine, still wrong.

And that’s not because of my religion but for the social consequences.

And yet none of us are perfect, are we?     In my trilogy, he tries so hard to be good, to do the right thing but the allure of the female is too strong – her fragrance, those lips, those eyes, those arms.    He’s weak, led by his pecker and covering it in all sorts of romantic mumbo-jumbo to protect his conscience.    In my book, he’s a well-spoken, decent sort of … monster.

And let’s face it – seeing one’s husband the other side of the bed year after year, him having snored all night, him having developed habits from overfamiliarity, with her now a slipper slob, focused on her own things and not on him, with a litany of unresolved petty differences, with both having to face the next day’s issues yet again – along comes lone drifter Kincaid and what is any woman going to feel?    Therein lies the trap.    What is going to stop her letting Kincaid in, off he goes four days later, no questions asked?

Or perhaps in that film, the marriage was reasonably OK and that compounds her felony – that she would so casually threaten what she’d constructed with great difficulty.

Therein lies the tragedy – it’s inside her.    She can wreck what she’s built in a moment or she can cut the tie after the kiss and before the consummation with the stranger.    And if she confesses that a year later to her husband, she clears the ledger and reinforces trust and honesty.    That she would have the guts to admit it and put her lie of a marriage on the line that way would be quite something.

Everyone is tempted but there’s such a thing as partly giving way at the romantic dinner and the kiss and then there’s just giving in without restraint, perhaps fuelled by drugs.

As Bridges showed, it is never simple, it’s the human condition.    And I’m not here to condemn the fellow fallen, I’m not God.    All I can do is sort out my own path through, get my own head in order and then act accordingly.


And as if on cue, going into the day’s papers:

botham affair

Not even going to ask why you’d want an affair with an Australian waitress.


11 responses to “Bridges of Madison County

  1. Social Climbing?

  2. “To live outside the law you must be honest.”- Robert Zimmerman
    (that line is at 2:02 or thereabouts btw)

  3. Couldn’t resist jumping in to state this:

    Meryl Streep’s character married to get out of a worn-torn country for a better life in America only to realize that it was a loveless life of drudgery where she quietly had basically stopped living. Meeting Eastwood was, for her, and perhaps him too, their only shot at love[and it was instant between them].Had she not experienced it she knew she never would. Although she loved him and wanted to go with him-and nearly did- the point was about her conflict and self sacrifice as she chose to stay in a loveless marriage, with ungrateful children, in the middle of nowhere living a quiet,prolonged death with nothing to look forward to because she had accepted that her life’s choices meant she needed to put the needs of her family and husband who was a ‘good man’ before her own. This redeems her from the torrid affair she had which was not portrayed as illicit but tragic because she had, essentially, sold herself short for she,in her youth, chose stability over love and passion,not believing she could have it all…and by the time it presented itself, she still couldn’t.

    Eastwood’s character wrote to her for the rest of his life and left her as his sole beneficiary in the end. Her children discovered his presence only after her death,going through her papers, and were shocked to realize the passion their mother was capable of and the sacrifices she made, foregoing her happiness for theirs.

    I think pretty much everyone in her position would have succumbed to the affair for it was her only chance in life to sample love,to be re-awakened, her real self brought to the fore, to be understood, appreciated an related to in a way her hick farmerish husband -and the simple townsfolk could not see nor relate to in her. With him , she had lost her sense of self which she rediscovered through Eastwood,which became her cross to bear because it really posed the question- I suppose- is it better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all?

  4. Oh,[and if that was not long enough] I would like to add that if Eastwood[who I believe also directed this film] stated it was his gift to women it was as an acknowledgment of what women sacrifice for their loved ones,regularly.That was the thrust of the film,not the affair,grass is always greener blah,blah,blah….

  5. (From Twilight)
    If you can’t see the film via DVD or VHS tape, James, but ever get the chance to read the fairly short novel upon which the film was based – please read it. Robert James Waller is a good writer – and a good writer about women, in my opinion – one of the few males who is.

    In the end the key is ….it’s a sto-oo-ory! It’s not a text book on how to live one’s life for goodness sake. It’s escapism, entertainment. The film and the novel have affected many in the way it affected me. We visited the covered bridges in Madison County, Iowa a couple of years ago. On the bridge most mentioned in the book and film are thousands and thousands of written messages by visitors on the walls. Authorities have to keep painting over them to make space year by year. Some of the messages are nearly as heart-breaking as the story itself.

    There’s more to the whole 4-day episode than a quick screw or two!

    There’s a sequel novel too – which tells how things developed after the end of the first book.

    Anyway…quotes from the novel:

    “In a universe of ambiguity, this kind of certainty comes only once, and never again, no matter how many lifetimes you live.”

    “It’s clear to me now that I have been moving toward you and you toward me for a long time. Though neither of us was aware of the other before we met, there was a kind of mindless certainty bumming blithely along beneath our ignorance that ensured we would come together. Like two solitary birds flying the great prairies by celestial reckoning, all of these years and lifetimes we have been moving toward one another.”

    “Quiet? Could something smell quiet” She was thinking about the phrase, asking herself. He was right. After the pork chops and steaks and roasts she cooked for the family, this was quiet cooking. No violence involved anywhere down the food chain, except maybe for pulling up the vegetables. The stew cooked quietly and smelled quiet.”
    ― Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County

  6. Uber – the justification you trot out here is breathtaking. 🙂

  7. James, The mere fact that I have never committed infidelity of any sort should show you that I do not condone it at all. This was more than about a ‘screw or two’ as twilight says. Even the most faithful[such as me] would be hard pressed in her circumstances to turn away from her only love/mind/soul connection she was ever likely to experience.

  8. Uber, has anyone ever suggested otherwise? This post and comments are about the general principle, that’s all.

  9. Oh James, I was not indignant,insulted or other, when I commented. I was pointing out that I [given my past] am the last person who would justify infidelity,but this film is so much more complicated than that. And in this instance one can understand why she behaved as she did. In fact, I was sad that she did not go off with him. It was a great film and twilight is right, you should try and get it. You won’t be disappointed. Do they have Netflix over there?

  10. I have loved well but perhaps less wisely than I could have. I can understand the flows of passion.

    But when it all comes down to the wire, it is only ‘romance’ for a woman involved. For her there are always excuses. As in the ‘Bridges’ she is cast as a victim subjected to drudgery. And her husband? Is he off gadding about?

    So she meets a chap. She is ‘swept off her feet’; she ‘follows her heart’; he ‘seduced’ her. No sign of agency is ever expected of such ‘heroines’.

    For a man who is in a drudge job supporting a loveless marriage, should he meet a charming girl, he is a sleaze, a bounder, a dirty old man, a seducer, disgraceful, a pariah.

    I am an old softie really. I can easily understand the landscape of the Heart. The reality is not at all like the Map. On the map there are symbols saying ‘here be damsels in distress who ‘need’ to be loved’, and, ‘here be dirty, nasty, sex-mad men’.

    Life’s a double-standard bugger. Its a bit like the Valentine’s Day (as it is today) tradition. The man pays.