In the mid 80’s Desert Hearts came out, a marvellous movie. To my mind it’s one of the greatest love stories ever, one I watched innumerabel times, and I always managed to ignore the part that said based on a novel by Jane Rule. Until a few months back on some forum the talk came up about which books we loved and one girl mentioned how she loved Desert of the Heart, the book in question on which the movie is based. Looking around the web the unite tenor is how much better and more fabulous the book was and how the movie is only a watered down, overly clichéd product that can’t do it justice.
So, I went out and got the book.
I read it.
And I hated it!
The book that gets lauded as Jane Rule’s greatest work, as the lesbian Romance, turned out to be anything but great and highly questionable as a romance. The premise of the book has Evelyn Hall coming to Reno to get a quick divorce from her husband which she can’t get along with anymore after they lived themselves apart, here she meets Anne Childs and finds herself falling in love with this woman.
Sounds great, no?
But the reasoning (in the book) for her to fall in love with Ann is (and I would quote the part in all its terribleness if I still had the book) because she has a strong resemblance to her.
It all runs down to these two women falling in love which each other because Evelyn sees in Ann the daughter she couldn’t have with her husband, and Ann sees in Evelyn the mother that left her as a child, take that and the fact that both women are portrayed as self-loving bitches that do not really care for others and you get a narcissistic incest fantasy going.
That’s far from being romantic, far from being about love at all.
And then there is this vibe, this reassurance to the straight community, that if it wasn’t for them being psychologically scarred they would love men.
The movie wisely cuts through all the psychological crap, and goes for the core:
Two women that fall in love which each other and after they spend a fantastic night together one of them gets cold feet and breaks it up, but the movie ends (as does incidentally the book) on the perfect note; not with happily ever after, but with the possibility for them to arrive there
Evelyn Hall: Ride with me to the next station.
Ann Childs: What we gonna get settled in forty minutes?
Evelyn Hall: I talk fast.
Ann Childs: What is it that you want?
Evelyn Hall: Another forty minutes with you.
There's no stupid trope to reassure the straight viewers that these women would actually rather love men, there's just a deeply felt honesty to this movie and the reassurance that every love deserves a chance.