The scene of a young man walking down his staircase preparing to hang himself is not a typical beginning for a love story. But it’s the first shot of Harold and Maude, an eccentric film that has become one of my favorites because of how it challenged my views on life and love.
Harold and Maude is a love story about a pessimistic 20-year-old man who gradually falls in love with a vivacious 79-year-old woman. Harold meets Maude at one of the random funerals he attends for amusement. His adventures with Maude start when he meets her again at another funeral (she stole the hearse he had recently bought from a junkyard). Pretty soon the free-spirited Maude has pessimistic Harold smoking Hookah (a tobacco pipe of Middle Eastern origin) for the first time, playing a banjo and tumbling freely in the hills.
The writer Colin Higgins, and director Hal Ashby, show the bright side of life through Maude, a free-spirited and independent thinker who is not afraid to break the rules. In one scene, she and Harold steal a city tree so they can bring it to the forest. Harold thinks it’s a bad idea because the tree is government property, but Maude ignores what he says. While smoking Hookah, Harold tells Maude that he’s picking up on vices. Maude tells him, “It’s best not to be too moral. You cheat yourself out of too much life. Aim above morality. If you apply that to life, then you’re bound to live life fully.”
Ruth Gordon played the quirky and energetic Maude very well. I like that her character is so energetic and realizes the fragility of life despite having survived a Nazi concentration camp. And I felt a connection to Bud Cort’s character and his beliefs that life was empty. There have been times in my life when I felt that no one cared and that I had no control over something bad happening to me.
I thought Harold falling in love in Maude was sweet and I didn’t have too much trouble with the age difference except the scene that hinted that Harold slept with Maude. I understand it’s a love story, but the physical aspect of love between an old lady and young man did not mix well in my mind. Even Harold’s priest tells him that the idea of intercourse with Maude makes him want to vomit.
But the movie primarily showed how Harold and Maude loved each other by their spending time together by going to different places, and Harold telling his mother that he wanted to marry Maude. This expression of love appealed to me because it showed that love has no boundaries.