The Bridges of Madison County (Affairs. Are They Really That Wonderful?)April 16, 2011
You’re probably thinking “isn’t it a little late to analyze this movie?”. Yes and no. Yes because it came out in 1995, but no because I finally just saw it and there are timeless truths of the fallen human nature found in it! The novel, written by Robert Waller, was published a few years prior in 1992 and sold over 50 million copies worldwide. The notion of women’s self-entitlement to happiness sells!
What’s the story about? Hopefully you’ve read it or watched it by now. In a nut shell, Fransesca (played by Maryl Streep) has a women’s natural wild heart, yet her wild spirit is caged in by her simple, boring, country lifestyle. In addition, she describes her husband as “clean” (meaning faithful, yet non-adventurous). But it isn’t until Fransesca meets Robert Kincaid (played by Clint Eastwood), a charming, independent, traveling photographer for National Geographic, that she questions leaving her husband for the greener grass. There’s no reason her husband deserves to be left, but there is reason for her wanting to, namely, him being really boring.
Robert arrives while Fransesca’s husband and two children are out of town. They’ve left for four days to the fair. Robert stops by her house looking for Roseman bridge, a beautiful red bridge that he’s assigned to take pictures of. Since the directions are too confusing she accompanies him along the way. After a series of events the two quickly become friends, and then lovers.
They realize that the affair can only last a few days and she must decide if she’s going to leave a faithful, yet boring husband. If she does she can ride off into the sunset with prince charming who makes her feel like her body is a cherished sculpture. Her family returns home. She manages to keep the affair a complete secret and decides to stay in Iowa.
However, as a final attempt to take her with him, Robert approaches Fransesca in town. She’s inside her truck while her husband is in the store. Thinking that Robert had left town already, she glances down the street and sees Robert standing in the rain looking at her in desperation. His tears are mixed with the rain.
As her husband gets back in the truck, Robert gets inside his. Her husband pulls out onto the street right behind Robert’s truck. They’re stopped at a red light. Fransesca sees Robert put a medallion around his rear view mirror. It’s the one she gave him. The light turns green. Robert doesn’t move. The intensity builds since Fransesca knows this will either be the last time she sees her husband, or Robert. She has to decide.
Fransesca is holding the door handle, slowly turning it. Her husband starts honking. In a way, this shows that Fransesca’s husband doesn’t like Robert, and that Robert doesn’t care. The two are at odds in this short moment. If only her husband knew the truth, they’d really be enemies.
Robert still doesn’t move his truck. Everything in Fransesca desperately wants to get out of the truck while simultaneously she doesn’t. But after more honks, Robert begins to slowly make a left turn and drives away. Fransesca turns around to get one final look. Her secret Casanova is getting smaller and smaller. Her hand is still clenching the door handle. Eventually she lets go. Soon after she can’t control her emotions of missing Robert. They swell up inside her and she begins to sob on the drive home.
Her husband is confused as to why she’s crying and asks her what’s wrong. After no reply he turns on the radio for a distraction. He turns the tuner to a mundane news station, rather than the fun jazz station which her and Robert enjoyed together. This signifies that she must now completely transition out of her fantasy world that Robert provided and return to her crappy reality.
At the end of the movie Fransesca has died of old age and her children are carrying out her will to have her ashes spread at Roseman bridge. Before Robert came along, the bridge was simply an after thought. After Robert, the bridge became a symbol of their love. Now her ashes will forever merge with that symbol.
Now let me ask… did she do the right thing? What is the greater tragedy, that she didn’t get her heart’s desire, or that she secretly cheated on her husband? Did Robert do the right thing? Should he have romanticized her, slept with her, and pressured her to leave her family? Should he have kept his distance? Should he have returned again in the rain, only to torture her emotions and make her miss him even more?
They never even had a proper good-bye. Their hearts were joined together and then separated over the course of 4 days. Now this is how they’ll be forced to remember each other. Was her husband ultimately to blame for the affair? Even though she was longing for adventure and romance, did that give her the right to sin against him? Did it give her the right to brake the wedding vows they once made?
Did Fransesca and Robert really know each other? Did they know any bad things about each other, or only good things? Was it just a short-lived surface level infatuation? Was their “love” for each other self-deception since it had not been tested with time or children? Was a 4 day secret affair really worth it?
Anyone can obsess over an infatuation, especially when it’s short-lived. The thing is, emotions of infatuation are the most powerful when they’re short lived! When emotions are only acted upon because they are new, they never have the chance to become old. Every infatuation, crush, and love-sickness will eventually fade away once people are known more comprehensively.
It’s analogous to almost anything in life. For example, when you travel to Italy for only a week, you’ll be in sensory perception overload, and for the rest of your life when you hear the word “Italy” you’ll associate it with that week long experience. However, the locals there don’t have that perception because they’re familiar with it. They’d like to get out and travel to other places. And so it goes with anywhere in the world. And so it goes with relationships.
I’m not saying that love dies over time in relationships. That’s a myth too. There are 3 types of love. Erotic love, friendship love, and selfless love. Erotic love is the most powerful, yet the shortest lived. That’s why sex doesn’t last nearly as long as the implications of sex, whereby friendship love and selfless love take over in the long run. Those are most needed when it comes to having children and being able to respect each other. Erotic love gets relationships going. Not saying relationships should start out sexual. They shouldn’t.
I’m saying infatuation is a part of erotic love too. But that type of love isn’t supposed to sustain a relationship, only light the sparks to it. Relationships start out in a shallow, yet rapid river. Over time the river calms down. However, even though the water calms, it also becomes much deeper! And the rapid river can and will certainly come back at times, it will just be different then what it was at first. It will be more coupled with the other types of love, thus making it even more special than it was at first.
Here’s the major question I’d like to ask: Why did she have an affair in the first place?!
I would contend, it’s because she and her husband never understood and applied marriage principles which can be found in the book ‘His Needs, Her Needs’.
This book has sold over 2 million copies, which is good but that also means that an infatuation with affairs outweighs the desire to affair proof your marriage 25 to 1.
My wife and I had marital counseling before we got married and our pastor gave us this book to read. The book’s wisdom is brilliant. I would recommend it to everyone. Basically, it teaches that men have certain needs like sex, recreation, and respect, while woman have certain needs like affection, protection, and leadership. The man needs to find out what his wife’s greatest needs are (they’re different from woman to woman) and meet those on a constant bases, and vice-versa.
The same goes for love languages and how we each have different ways of demonstrating and receiving love. Some need flowers, some need to be touched, some need compliments, etc. Don’t expect the other person to know. Get over yourself and tell them. When they do what you like you’ll be glad. In doing all this, each person will have their needs met in their partner and will not have to go looking for it in someone else.
Here’s the reality. That “someone else” whom we have an affair with, wont meet our needs either. We’re too selfish to have all of our needs met in someone. It’s not supposed to work that way, which is why it NEVER does anyways. For example, let’s pretend that Fransesca opened the pick-up door, jumped into Robert’s truck, and lived happily ever after. You know that’s what most woman who watch this movie want to happen! But pretend that she could have done it guilt free and with no regrets. Then think of 10 years down the road after all the passion has died out, the sex is familiar, there are occasional arguments, and they annoy each other.
What will they do then? Will they be able to transport themselves back to the 4 days where their infatuation for each other was at its pinnacle? No. Should Fransesca just have another affair to make herself feel special again? No. The human heart is so desperate that we’ll have affairs on the very one’s we’re having affairs with! Rather, they will need to work it out with what the Bible calls “agape”, or selflessness.
I hope that woman watch this movie and walk away from it with a Biblical outlook, not a selfish, self-entitled, feeling sorry for Fransesca outlook. I also hope that husbands watch this movie and walk away with a greater determination to fulfill their wife’s needs. In fact, the movie gives us that example. Fransesca’s son realized that he doesn’t want to repeat his father’s foot steps.
He goes back to his wife and tells her he’s sorry if he hasn’t paid enough attention to her. By the look on her face she’s surprised, yet completely comforted. Fransesca’s husband only had to ask her, “hey deer, where do you want to travel to?” Then they could have had their own adventure together. Then later on when mysterious, sexy, Robert comes to the house she wouldn’t feel that she needs to have an affair with him because her needs would have already been met by her husband.
It’s disgusting to me that Fransesca chose to have her ashes scattered by Roseman bridge instead of being buried next to her husband. She had a 4 day affair with a stranger which made her feel like an Aretha Franklin “womaaaan” and that became the most precious thing to her upon her dying wish. Needing to feel loved isn’t the only thing that gives a woman worth. As a woman, thinking that you’re entitled to do whatever you want to do in order to feel loved is a form of feminism. I understand it’s not the cheating that’s supposedly courageous. It’s the desire to be loved and act upon it which is “courageous” in the feminist’s mindset.
But this desire should be acted upon with her husband, not against her husband. You ask, “but what if my husband never meets my needs and I never get fulfilled that way?” Jesus didn’t abandon you so why do you get to abandon your husband? It wasn’t pretty for Jesus to stay faithful to us when we rejected him. It cost his life. That’s how much he loved us in spite of us. That’s our standard too. He set the example and we’re supposed to follow it. Yes Fransesca was a good mother and a “proper” wife, but Jesus looks at the heart. You should strive to not give up on your husband because Christ didn’t give up on you.
This movie glamorizes affairs. Since some people are lead by only their emotions, they will feel emboldened by this movie to follow Fransesca’s lead. You can follow those emotions or you can follow the emotions that come from being reminded of the gospel. In the words of Derek Webb, “I am a whore I do confess, so I’ll put you on like a wedding dress, and I run down the aisle to you.” We aren’t that lovely to God. Yet, he treats us as though we are worthy anyways on the bases of Christ. Does Christ influence your love? It is the greatest and most beautiful love imaginable. Do you realize that that’s the kind of love that marriage is supposed to reveal? Just as Jesus exemplified it in the gospel. Worldly desires are selfish. Only the Spirit can give you the kind of love that is humble.
NOW PLEASE LET ME YOUR THOUGHTS!