The word “affairs” evokes a wide range of feelings, from the euphoria of discovering a new love to the heartbreak and sorrow that can follow a betrayal.
These films examine the issue of adultery from a variety of angles, and so they can either excuse, shame, understand, or explain the phenomenon.
The Graduate (1967)
Adaptation of Charles Webb’s novel by Mike Nichols, Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) is a 21-year-old just graduated college student who is seduced by his parents’ married friend, Mrs. Robinson (Joan Crawford) (Anne Bancroft).
After Ben’s birthday party, Mrs. Robinson approaches him and tells him straight out that she thinks he’s very handsome while she’s completely naked. Their bizarre, awkward friendship begins. It takes a few days of boredom for Benjamin to accept his friend’s offer after he initially refuses it. Their relationship appears to be devoid of feeling.
Benjamin’s days of sunbathing and avoidance continue to merge into one another, only to be punctuated by sex with his parents’ acquaintance, who is not interested in him for his dialogue.
Mrs. Robinson is an enigmatic figure whose true motivations are never revealed, and whose sense of guilt over the scandal leads her to tell outright lies about how it all began. As she strives to keep her family together, her weakness seeps through her strong will.
At least once, she confesses to Benjamin that she only got married to him because of their daughter Elaine (Katherine Ross), who ends up being a better match for him than her mother. This sets up an odd love triangle in which Elaine is pitted against her mother.
The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Cinematography. Mike Nichols won the Academy Award for Best Director. It was also nominated for six Golden Globes and four BAFTA Awards.
In The Mood For Love (2000)
Hong Kong film’s Chinese title means “the flowery years” or “the age of blooms,” which are metaphors for youth, beauty, and love’s ephemeral nature in Chinese culture. Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung), a journalist, and Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung), a secretary, both married to unseen wives, reside next door to each other in 1962.
Because their husbands work long hours, they are often left alone. Both of their lives are void. To make a long story short, they run into each other when they go to get some street noodle soup for one person. As time goes on, they begin to think that their husbands are cheating on them with one another. It’s the betrayal of their husbands that binds Chow and Su together, but they refuse to let things go too far.
The fact that Wong Kar-wai chooses not to show the adulterous couple is a brilliant and ground-breaking move, as most films about adultery focus on the adulterers. Clow and Su’s affection for each other is commonplace, but their relationship is a very respectful and honorable friendship that is not tainted by lies and tortured humiliation.
When Chow and Su pretend to be partners, Kar-wai works out a means to incorporate them in the fictitious chats they have with each other. They envision how their affair would have started, who would have started it, how to confront them about it, and numerous scenarios that serve to relieve their sorrow from their bodies..
Fatal Attraction (1987)
A married Manhattan man Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) has a weekend affair with a mentally unstable woman Alexandra “Alex” Forrest (Glenn Close) while his wife, Beth, and daughter, Ellen, are out of town, in Adrian Lyne’s psychological thriller “Diversion,” adapted from a 1980 short film by James Dearden for British television.
Afraid that he’ll leave her, Alex clings to him as her behavior spirals out of hand. Many male viewers were terrified by Glenn Close’s portrayal of her increasingly insane attempts at self-harm and extortion in her quest to win him back. As Dan fights to save his life from falling apart, the suspense is palpable throughout the movie.
A one-night stand is all it takes for Lyne and the audience to be taken in by Alex’s flirtatious conversation and ease of intimacy, and they are both shocked when they learn that this cool and confident woman has a dark side that is possessive and extremely jealous, ready to use any means necessary to ruin Dan’s blissful existence.
Among the six Academy Award nominations were for Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role for Close, Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Archer, Best Directing, and Best Editing.
American Beauty (1999)
Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) is a middle-aged guy in the midst of a mid-life crisis depicted by Alan Ball (True Blood, Six Feet Under) and directed by Sam Mendez in “American Beauty.” Carolyn (Annette Bening) and Carolyn (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are both bored and underappreciated in their jobs and marriages.
Angela, the 16-year-old aspiring model who is Lester’s daughter Thora’s (Thora Birch) best friend, piques Lester’s interest (Mena Suvari). Buddy Kane “The King” (Peter Gallagher) of real estate, who happens to be her adversary, awakens him from his dull and inferior life, while his wife’s desire is awakened by him. Her “chronic loser” of a husband, who quit his job, acquired a new one at a fast food restaurant, started exercising to “look good naked” for a sixteen-year-old girl, and got high off the neighbor kid’s (Wes Bentley) pot while she was having an affair.
Despite the fact that they are married, they lead very different lives, interrupted by bitter silences that they exchange with one another. They don’t even give a damn if the other has gone on to someone else because they don’t care about each other anymore. In addition to Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (for Spacey), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography, the film was also nominated for Academy Awards (forConrad Hall).
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
The 1997 film adaptation of Ang Lee’s love story
Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) are two cowboys who herd sheep all summer long in the Wyoming Mountains and form a complicated, secret connection.
Aguirre (Randy Quaid) hired them in 1963 and they began spending every waking hour of the day and every night of their lives together in the American West. Drinking too much makes their previously professional relationship much more difficult to maintain once they engage in sex.
After their relationship comes to an end, Ennis marries his longtime girlfriend Alma Beers (Michelle Williams) and has two kids with her, while Jack relocates to Texas and marries and has a son with Lureen Newsome (Kathryn Newton-John) (Anne Hathaway). Four years later, Jack pays a surprise visit to Ennis, and the two men resume their illicit liaison behind their wives’ backs.
Ledger, Gyllenhaal and Williams were all nominated for Academy Awards for their roles in the film, as well as Prieto for his cinematography. The film won three awards, including Best Director (Ang Lee), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score. Golden Globe and BAFTA awards were also won.
Husbands And Wives (1992)
Two couples, one played by Sydney Pollack (director) and the other by Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, are the focus of this comedy-drama. The first is Jack (Woody Allen) and Sally (Judy Davis), who had been best friends for years. When Gabe and Judy learn that their friends are divorcing, the film opens with a long, choppy documentary style take.
When Judy learns that her parents are separating, she acts in a similar way to a youngster who learns that their parents are divorcing. In the midst of their divorce, Gabe is unsure of what to make of his wife’s emotional reaction and the couple’s reassurance that the divorce will help them “grow.”
Finally, Gabe sees Jack and discovers he already has an underage girlfriend. She’s a gorgeous, blonde aerobics instructor who’s helped him transform his health and well-being by getting him to diet and exercise with her.
While he was married to Sally and she knew of it, he had an affair with her while she was still married. Sally turned from her newfound independence to mourn over her lost marriage. Gabe’s interest in one of his students (Juliette Lewis) reflects Jack’s desire for a “do-over,” as Gabe has had many affairs with older men before to meeting Gabe.