“Love of Violets” from New York, I Love You: A Film Commentary
By Marian Pascual
It is hard to capture the definite meaning of this film, but what intrigues the audience most is probably the delicate mystery that unfolds, ever so slightly. New York, I Love You is a recreation of the original film, Paris, Je T’aime, where a variety of segments are filmed in different parts of each cinematic city. The seventh segment of New York, I Love You featured the chicer part of the city – Fifth Avenue- where a woman revisits a hotel and encounters very strange things during her stay there. I urge you to watch this film because it raises the question of existentialism and because overall it is a very beautiful film.
In “Love of Violets,” a woman revisits a fairly vacant hotel in Upper Manhattan, where she is assisted by a crippled Russian bellhop. We learn that she is a retired opera singer, and about her love of violets. She requests for some to be brought up to her room, and somehow there were already some violets waiting for her in the lobby… coincidence? Not just yet! The bellhop reveals that his father, who is also the manager of the hotel, was a great admirer of her singing back in the day; he had watched her perform many times in Paris. Suddenly, the bellhop has a random violent nosebleed inside her hotel room, and then leaves the scene (as if things could not have gotten weirder).
At the end of the film, the bellhop offers to close the window for her. As he walks towards the window, he slowly starts to fade into the light. He says his final words before he falls to his death, “How can you bear it? I don’t know how you can bear it.” It could be that perhaps he relates to how she feels about not being physically able to do the things that make her happy, the same way he is crippled, which restricts him from enjoying life to its maximum capacity. Or it could be that the melancholy bellhop is part of some kind of schizophrenia she has (because she was seen talking to herself in the first few minutes of the film) and symbolizes who she is on the inside, crippled and physically restricted from doing what brings her the most happiness – to sing. This theory is backed up by the fact that whenever the bellhop made an appearance in her room, he was reflected in the mirror that the woman was also reflected in. Therefore, it is to say that she was symbolically looking back at herself in the mirror, and the bellhop represented the struggling part of her inside that we tend to mask to the outside world in order to portray a happier image of ourselves.
After the bellhop commits suicide, something even more strange occurs. A second bellhop, who we can assume to be the original one, climbs back from the balcony to tell the woman that there was no one down there and suggests she could have just seen something in the street. He then offers to close the window for her once again, and she replies very firmly: “Yes, please close the window.” This could mean that she accepts the sad truth of never being able to sing again, and that she wants to start new, without having that sad person conscience restricting her from living her life. Towards the end of the film, she was seen dressed in a white gown, almost like she was getting engaged. A wedding symbolizes a new beginning, and in this case it was the beginning of an end, and that is what I think Shekhar Kapur intended to do with this beautifully haunting film.