When the Open University team sent me through the research materials to read back in January I remember having the most wonderful long weekend completely unable to put the material down. One of the striking things about the Enduring Love research is that there is no perfect model relationship. What people were saying about their lives together was at the same time fascinating, funny, and incredibly moving. Reading the research I found a myriad of stories, and began to imagine the characters that are enacting these relationships as atomic elements, each with their own properties. Some elements combine particularly with each other well and I could almost hear the electrostatic forces of attraction crackling as these bonds stretch and flex through the ordinary day to day experiences of being together. Each relationship, each molecule, has its own shape and substance. There was something thrilling about the energy of those intersecting orbits. I suppose in a way that is what love is: energy.
The honesty and generosity with which people describe their attachments to each other and what each of their particular emotional landscapes looks like is very touching. The everyday detail in the research reveals so much of us, of what it is to be human. It was clear very quickly that one film or one story could not possibly capture that richness of experience, and to do the research any justice at all I was going to have to create a series of vignettes that explore the intricacies and depth of those dancing electrostatic human bonds.
Each film in this series was inspired by the research findings. The Proper Cup, for instance, focused on the finding that mundane acts of kindness – like making a cup of tea – were critical to a lasting relationship. Digital Life was inspired by the way that we can negotiate intimacy in spite of digital technology and also directly through it. There is a wonderful range of relationships evident in the research and these films also look forward to future research on ‘queer youth’ in Game of Phones in particular, where I wanted to convey the vulnerability and excitement of youthful relating.
To create the film vignettes in this series I decided to use a combination of real world relationships and acted scenes. I suppose it is drama and documentary brought together. I also felt the need to break the laws of time and go into extreme slow motion to capture the precise moment of connection: to reveal the change between not eye contact and eye contact, or to reveal the contiguous eruption of a shared thought in two minds as, for example, two people solve a crossword clue together. I found the hands expressed as much as the eyes in the way people are with each other. Relationship is very much something which we do. It is action. This research is amongst the most emotional material I have ever read. I hope this film series conveys at least some of that rich depth of feeling.