Simultaneously, the similarities and distinctions between God’s Own Country and Call Me By Your Name, films both premiered in 2017 and featuring two men falling in love with each other, astound me. CMBYN, lush, vibrantly coloured, seeped with the beauty of high European art, flourished with the nostalgia of a full soundtrack, invites me in its atmosphere of the mystery of love. God’ Own, soiled, broken walls, grunting and unfolding in the language of the everyday, of labour and the gray green fields, shows me the day’s break of love.
Both films use naming as a way for the lovers to affirm their intimacy in a way that signals the untraditional circumstance of their binding. In CMBYN, it is the exchanging of birth names, the mirroring of souls. In God’s Own, it is the exchanging of derogatory words, the mirroring of solidarity. In their naming the lovers claim infinity, and both films end with such an attempt of the claim. For Elio and Oliver, this attempt is breathy through the landline, a dream already gone. For John and Gheorghe, it is under the same sky, and a reassurance that things may return and move forward.
Thus the latter return on the bus together. For the former, the last bus trip is the first, and it is away.
Wounds are important for both films; Oliver’s is of mythic proportions across his celestial stomach, untouched and thus transcending the grotesque and stinging of an aesthetic foreboding; John’s is rubbed with Gheorghe’s saliva and licked by Gheorghe’s tongue and scabs quickly, palm to palm healed.
The two pair of lovers both play in water. The water is of different temperature and temperaments.
In CMBYN the labour is intellectual; in God’s Own the labour is physical. To me, this difference is pivotal. With the intellectuality comes irony, obscurity. Thus Elio and Oliver’s age difference can be more uncomfortable, compared to John and Gheorghe’s. The physical necessity in God’s Own highlights John and Gheorghe potentiality for equality, the need to undertake the same tasks, their need for each other as muscles and limbs.
The first time John and Gheorghe have sex they are filthy, wrestling in mud. What there was of filth in CMBYN was largely lost from novel to film. For example, the cinematic Elio and Oliver do not watch each other shit, and Oliver does not eat Elio’s ejaculatory peach. Instead, Elio begs Oliver to not eat it, and finally crumbles and weeps into Oliver’s chest. Regarding this scene, Aciman notes: “The film takes a very physical, almost lusty moment and finds its emotional equivalent right way. So that it never allows you to dwell on the physical without ever giving you also the emotional counterpoint to it.”
So it is, both films, both lovers, sinking deeper and deeper into pure emotionality, their own emotionality, Elio breathlessly brushing Oliver’s hair before disappearing towards the waterfall, John kissing and kissing Gheorghe’s neck in the family living room, bright in first love.
All real love is perhaps the same, so terribly similar that we dress it with their distinctions. These distinctions make the circumstances, mark the decisions, make of love, faces of infinite interest.