Of Love and Freedom

scattered thoughts

 

Love, and freedom. Our show portrays a protagonist, Vincent, who apparently is far from being free. He is definitely constricted, by his uniqueness, by his surroundings, by his relationships, by his very looks. But he is the epitome of freedom anyway. Vincent is the fictional representation of a deep nonfictional, if ideal, truth: freedom is not limited by limits. Rather, it’s the way we approach limits that makes us free or not free.

Catherine is on the other side of the freedom spectrum, compared to Vincent. She’s got all that Vincent does not. She’s normal, even beautiful, her wealth makes the world and its people more accessible to her than it is to many other people. But she has to stay ten days “Below”, blind and immobile, to embrace freedom.

 Of course, these are rough depictions of our beloved characters. The nuances in their personalities are many, and it’s beautiful, so that they can be credible, inspiring characters, not cartoonesque two dimensional sketches: we all are made of nuances. But in the symbolic meaning of the overall show, in the dualism that colors everything, beginning from the basic Above/Below and Beauty/Beast, the dualism freedom/constriction also finds its display in the development of the series.

 In the episodes, we see Vincent, who roams Above, who challenges his limits (Mouse: Vincent breaks their stupid rules too... – Shades of Gray), who dares to dream of an impossible love, and pursues it against all odds. And Vincent uses his freedom of spirit, which we see at the beginning of the series and throughout it, to put even more constraints on his freedom: he freely chooses to love an impossible love. (Father: “She can bring you only unhappiness!” – Vincent: “Then I’ll be unhappy!” – Pilot).

 Conversely, we see Catherine, who freely chooses to renounce the supposed freedom she had at the beginning of the series, given to her by the privileges of her status: freedom to be late at work and not even pretend to be committed to her job, as the bored “daughter of the boss”, freedom to travel and live the life of the wealthy (“Vincent, I’ve been all over the world, met people, done things. I’ve lived in luxury most people could never imagine” – A Children’s Story). She feels really good only when she’s “just another foot soldier, anonymous and underpaid” (Nor Iron Bars a Cage), only when she’s in NYC, as even California is too far away for her (A Distant Shore).

 Choosing to love each other, they choose to place limits upon their freedom. So, what else is new? All lovers do the same. Exactly. In fact, I’m speaking of love and freedom, of the connection between these fundamental values that make us human. Freedom is not something that happens, that you receive as a sudden gift, that you can find someplace… a place that is never here, never now, and that you keep longing for. Freedom is in our heart, it’s the way we approach the events of our life, the way we accept or don’t accept being shaped – crushed, or made better – by them. “If you have a good excuse, don’t use it,” I read once.

 Lovers know very well this kind of limitations to their freedom. The limits created by loving someone are not limits, insofar as the heart loves the idea of restricting one’s freedom for including the limit represented by the other. The other is such limit, a beloved limit. It excludes a lot of possibilities, to commit to one only, a beloved one. The consequences, of course, can be heavy and difficult, and of course the relationship is challenged by such difficulties. But the ideal way of loving is the one that Catherine embraces and poignantly explains in one of the most beautiful scenes of B&B.

 Remember? Some time ago BatBland launched a survey about many “Best” things of the show. The Best Scene that the fans chose among several nominated is that beautiful, and so telling, so meaningful scene of A Fair and Perfect Knight:

 Vincent: You have so much love to give…
Catherine: Because of you!
Vincent: What we share must always be so measured, so limited…
Catherine: We don't know what the limits are!
Vincent: You deserve a life without limits!
Catherine: There is no life without limits!
Vincent, if this is my fate, I accept it, gratefully. You must believe that. Don't be afraid to want it, even only for yourself. Don't be afraid to deserve it. You deserve everything!

The limits are gratefully accepted by Catherine, because those limits are Vincent. Another man, another world, another relationship would not give her… Vincent. Her lover’s heart wants Vincent, and she’s grateful for having him, limits and all. In those words, Catherine sums up the choice to love and commit oneself that constitutes the very essence of true, unconditional love. It’s a matter of priorities, I think. It’s not that traveling or attending parties or sunbathing is not appealing to her anymore. Only, Vincent comes first, and all the rest takes its proper place, and is less important and desirable. Compared with the main “good” she wants, she freely decides to first choose Vincent, and then, if possible, all the rest, without regrets, gratefully. So, the limits put to her freedom by his unique love become the conditions that make loving Vincent possible, the limits which make who he is and how he is, and they are precisely gratefully accepted, not a threat to her freedom.

Oh, yes, of course we’re speaking of an ideal here, and a very high one at that, one which even the fictional Beauty struggles with, let alone our very human selves. Real life – and even real episodes – take their toll on this ideal goal. We see throughout the episodes that Catherine is definitely a woman of Above, and while her heart is committed to Vincent, she still needs all that Above represents. It’s precisely the fight to decide what’s "worth everything” (A Happy Life) and, once decided, to remain faithful to such a decision, that makes our show so fascinating from this point of view. Catherine becomes more and more committed, until that beautiful A Distant Shore episode, when we see that the need to be together is at its peak, no matter what, no matter where.

And, in this path to full commitment, we see that the role of Vincent has a parallel development. His path is different. He is a free spirit, his very being is so unique and fascinating precisely because he built his life refusing to be limited by what he is, and he found his stubborn and hopeful way to approach reality, and find the best in it no matter what (Father: “Someone who had every reason to curse fate and feel punished and yet he accepted all that life had to offer with gratitude and love” – Song of Orpheus). Catherine is a challenge for him inasmuch he accepts – gratefully as well – conditioning his freedom to someone else’s freedom.

In fact, so long as he was “alone”, he could really be free to measure himself against the limits of his constricted life, and win out over them, counting only on his incomparable strength of spirit. Loving Catherine means that he has to accept that such freedom – and victory – is conditioned by the choices of another heart. That’s why he continually sets her free. Vincent is a proud soul, he cannot accept being chosen for pity, or for compassion, or with any regrets in the soul. He challenges Catherine, in a way. Perhaps he needs to be reassured. Vincent’s “free” heart, that had found his noble and difficult balance until Catherine appeared in his life, feeds and basks in Catherine’s freedom, in her free choosing him, despite all the wondrous possibilities she has at her disposal.

The “clash” of these different nuances of freedom makes for the fascinating, inspiring development of their relationship.

 

 

 


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