Love Story (1970): of wit and banter

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It’s one of those books that you need to be aware for pop-culture reference. But I never realised how well crafted it was.

It’s a 100+ page novel that Erich Segal extracted from his 1970 screenplay of the same film title. It’s minimal, straight to the point, not much description, all-dialogue (not surprised there since it was based on his screenplay). Most engaging were the lead character’s verbal sparring. They expressed their affection and admiration for each other through insults, banter, and wit. And the whole thing is a battle of wits. He’s a Harvard Law graduate, she’s a Radcliffe musical protege. Intellectuals, liberals, radicals. They’re no nonsense and yet there conversations are layered with meaning. She’s smitten by him, he could not resist her. It’s a typical rich kid-poor-kid, my-social-status-is-against-us-but-I-don’t-care-dammit. There personalities clash and yet they compliment each other. He leads her, she stirs him.

If the novel is all about dialogue, then the film is about touch. It didn’t give the same effect, the same anger and tension between father and son in the book, but it did convey the passion through their touch. The way she clings to him when they walked to get a cab, when she was laying in the hospital bed – her death bed, giving her last instructions, their hands were fidgeting, kept clutching and hold each other. You can feel the urgency and despair.

It’s the mother of all modern tragic love stories, where the antagonist is not a person nor status, but body and time.

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