Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and whether you are single, taken or something in between, everyone can love one thing: arts. From sculptures, movies, songs and more, the arts offer a versatile way to expand viewers’ hearts or leave them heartbroken. The Arts & Life section has compiled our favorite pieces of arts and media that explore love.
‘Ecstasy of Saint Teresa’ (1649-1652) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini
This sculpture looks as though an ethereal world of aesthetic perfection brought it to life. It depicts St. Teresa of Avila — a nun and a Catholic saint who recounted her mystical encounters with God in her autobiography — in a moment of religious rapture.
With the angel’s arrow about to pierce her heart, Teresa’s head is thrown back, her mouth agape and arms and hands limp at her sides — ecstasy consumes her. The attention to texture adds a dimension of almost uncanny lifelikeness, as the thin fabric of the angel’s robe ripples across his chest, and the thick folds of Teresa’s gown subsume her. The details add physicality to the piece, turning Teresa’s ecstatic mania into a pure, gold-lined aesthetic bliss for viewers to experience alongside her.
The sculpture represents a seamless confluence of erotic longing and religious devotion, pain and pleasure, suspense and release. The artwork epitomizes love — Teresa’s devotional love for Jesus Christ and Bernini’s love for his craft.
— Alexandra Kauffman, Arts & Life Editor
‘Sealed off’ (1943) (1943) by Eileen Chang
This work of fiction portrays a romantic encounter between two strangers in a train cabin. The story takes place during wartime in Japan-occupied Shanghai in the 1940s. A bank accountant and a young college assistant teacher meet on the train when it suddenly gets locked down. A conversation blossoms in the isolated space between the two, who have distinct age and class differences. Chang’s depiction of the encounter in the train cabin implies the many connections between individuals in modern society. She metaphors life as continuous, forward-moving pathways, just like the trains passing by one another on railways. Chunks of intimate dialogue and detailed portrait descriptions lead the story to near isolation from reality. This story is ephemeral but beautiful in the coincidental time and space designed by Chang.
— Yvette Wang, Arts & Life Contributing Writer
‘Across the Stars (Love Theme from ‘Star Wars: Attack of the Clones’)’ (2002) by John Williams & London Symphony Orchestra
This beautiful melody is the aptly-named soundtrack to the star-crossed romance between Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala. The song is both light and intense as it takes the listener through the ups and downs of their romance, allowing the audience to experience the love story alongside the characters. The music makes clear the sense of duty and propriety Anakin and Padme both feel as well as how the intensity of their love overcomes their barriers to each other. However, due to its strength, their love ends up devouring them both with negative consequences for their entire universe.
I love this orchestra piece because I can see the movie play in my head while I listen to the melody. The lengths to which Anakin and Padme went for each other inspire me. The devastating end to their romance adds to the music’s intrigue, emphasizing the brief brilliance of their relationship and how bittersweet it is. “Across the Stars” also begs the question: What lengths will we go to for love, and are they worth the consequences?
— Jessie Satovsky, Arts & Life Staff Writer
‘The Light’ (2000) by Common
With the help of the legendary beatmaker J Dilla, neo-soul-meets-hip-hop artist Common scored a modest hit single with the groovy track “The Light,” even gaining him his second nomination for Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance. The song is an ode to Common’s then-girlfriend Erykah Badu and the ebb and flow of having a mature relationship. In addition to the track’s infectious groove and tasteful Bobby Caldwell sample, the introspective lyrics truly stick out in the oft-misogynistic world of hip-hop. The track excels in its slam-poetry-type delivery and its vivid storytelling between two loving yet complicated partners.
“I never knew a luh-luh-luh, a love like this / Gotta be somethin’ for me to write this,” Common raps in the first verse, then tapping into a bygone era of chivalry. “Queen, I ain’t seen you in a minute / Wrote this letter, and finally decide to send it.”
— Ari Segal, Arts & Life Editor
‘Brokeback Mountain’ (2005) by Ang Lee
It always starts with a simple glance: eyes darting to and from and back again. Almost the first queer film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture but likely snubbed due to homophobia, Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain” remains a homosexual hallmark, telling a simple love story between two passionate cowboys that unfolds into a blindsidingly profound one-two punch of desire and grief. The film pulls the pair across stunning mountainscapes and valley-swaddling rivers — and even inside of a sweaty, sensual tent. It knots them with wives and children but unravels again and again as Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) fail to resist the depths of desire-turned-desperation.
Not far below the surface of its visual beauty is a tragedy about the ugliness of a society built to stop some ways of loving from coming to fruition. It is a carnal film about how queer love cannot be silenced, even in death. Held together by a palpable sense of unshakable passion, “Brokeback Mountain” never leaves room for slack, even through the slow untying of its delicately rural cinematography or the melancholic twang of Gustavo Santaolalla’s timeless score.
— Nathan Rubin, Arts & Life Editor
‘Piku’ (2015) by Shoojit Sircar
An Indian movie that moves away from the stereotypical dance breaks and flying action heroes, Shoojit Sircar’s “Piku” is a charming comedy about a daughter, Piku Banerjee (Deepika Padukone), and her father, Bhashkor Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchan). The plot revolves around the stubborn and intrusive hypochondriac, Bhashkor, who disrupts Piku’s professional and personal life. He crashes presentations and dates, sharing unpleasant details and status updates on his chronic constipation. As the story progresses, Bhashkor’s quirks begin to grow on the audience.
Though Piku has a love interest, the movie primarily depicts a daughter’s love for her father when the role of a caretaker is reversed — he returns to being childlike, with spontaneous requests to have sweets, drink wine and travel to his birth city. A road trip ensues, and the movie cuts to the tiny streets and grand mansions of Kolkata, India with beautiful sarod music in the background. Piku obeys her father’s requests, not out of duty, but out of love.
— Satvika Bharadwaj, Arts & Life Contributing Writer