I’m a grown man, and I really like the Twilight movies.
It feels almost embarrassing to admit this, even weird. I suppose it is weird: I’m not an adolescent girl, Emo boy or mildly deranged middle-aged woman with R-Patz tattoos. I don’t like romances and I’m sick of bloody vampires. I’ve no interest in reading the books or watching similar teenie movies.
I didn’t even know there were two previous sequels, New Moon and Eclipse, until recently. I’d never bothered with the series on its initial run; I figured Twilight for sappy melodrama, and only watched because the Pacific Northwest scenery looked amazing on a TV trailer.
I wasn’t hostile. I just thought: they’re not really for me. I was wrong.
On one level, I thoroughly enjoyed them as simple escapism: well-made, engaging, fun and exciting, with a trés cool soundtrack. I didn’t get the criticisms about an anti-sex, pro-Mormon subtext; for me that was people projecting their own biases onto what was fundamentally an entertainment. And it was nice to see a blockbuster/franchise primarily aimed at girls and women, instead of all that superhero junk made for teenage boys or morons who think like teenage boys.
That was on one level. Now here’s the properly weird part.
The Twilight movies really affected me, emotionally and psychically. With that sustained tone of melancholy and reverie, they opened up a door to my youth. Somewhere within this fantastical tale of vampires and werewolves, I found a core truth about what it means to be human – and a reminder of what I used to be like.
This was more than memory or nostalgia: it was like I really was back there, in that omnipotential time of life, somewhere between 16 and 22, when most of us are gawky and unformed and daily life is a trial – but anything seems possible in your future. An age of concentrated aimlessness, with all the freedom of adulthood and few of the responsibilities.
It felt almost like time was one instant, and I was both myself at 38 and myself as a kid simultaneously; and the person who’s here now was reliving yesterday. It was disorientating and sort of upsetting.
So much so that I partly regretted watching them, because I got so fucking wistful about the past. I suppose nostalgia is inherently depressing, anyway: as if the soul knows that forward motion is natural and necessary.
The second one in particular felt almost painfully true. The character of Bella was very real, I thought; she reminded me so strongly of different girls I knew in school and college. (She even dressed like we used to dress!)
And the way they played the relationships out, all hesitancy and half-courage and awkwardness, that sweet sort of anxiety you only feel at that age: it was so real I could almost feel it in my viscera. Indeed, anyone not moved by Bella’s heartbreak in the second film must have never been young and in love, and hurt by it.
Very few movies have affected me in this precise way: Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise/Sunset and Waking Life, My Own Private Idaho, the French film Je Vais Bien ne t’en Fais Pas, the flashback scene at the end of Godfather II, a Swedish drama about two girls living in a small town whose name escapes me…maybe Twin Peaks on television. Moments where the characters and setting are someway removed from your own, but the heart of it, through some mysterious alchemy of cinema, is beating to the same rhythm as yours.
I don’t know why or how all this happened. Maybe I was caught by surprise because I knew so little about Twilight beforehand – I hadn’t read the reviews, assuming I’d never watch them. Maybe it helped that I’m currently immersed in writing a supernatural-themed Young Adult novel of my own (don’t worry, no vampires); I was mentally primed, so to speak.
But possibly – probably – there’s no reason at all. Just some unknowable chemical reaction between the movie and me.
So there it is. I’m a grown man, and I really like Twilight. I got something from those movies that I didn’t expect – and I’m not even sure I wanted.
- This piece was originally published in the Guardian newspaper’s Comment is Free section: click here for all my Guardian stuff.