Love on the silver screen
We asked three resident film instructors to recommend their favorite Valentine's Day movies. Our experts—in grand Siskel-and-Ebert fashion—are likely still arguing their points and poking gentle fun at one another's choices, but they did agree on each of the selections at right.
Professor of Music Blake Wilson, a film instructor who also leads the Dickinson Collegium, brings a musician's sensibility to the task. His third-favorite selection, The English Patient, was the first to leap to mind—not only because it has interesting music, but because of the familiar scenery in a pivotal scene. "On our last Collegium tour in Italy (2007), we stayed and performed at the monastery of Sant'Anna in Camprena in southern Tuscany, where many of the English Patient scenes were filmed, and Bob Massa—who sang bass with us—stayed in the very room where [the movie's lead character] spent his last, bedridden days," he explains. "Bob, fortunately, fared better."
Wilson also includes Love, Actually ("a whole collection of love stories that play out in myriad ways, all of which ring true") and the oft-underrated Truly Madly, Deeply, starring Alan Rickman as a lover with an unusual dilemma ("You will love it, or not like it much at all," he warns).
Nancy Mellerski, professor of French and film studies, sends her star-crossed viewers to the moors with the 1939 version of Wuthering Heights ("fabulous cinematography and Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier at the peak of their careers make it irresistibly romantic,") and to the ocean, with Titanic, soon to be re-released in 3-D. She also introduces us to some of the most mesmerizing movies of world cinema, including 1962's Jules and Jim ("It never gets old,"), 1964's Woman in the Dunes ("a classic of Japanese cinema; erotic, mesmerizing and gritty") and 1998's Cinema Paradiso, dubbed a valentine to cinema itself.
Mellerski also names Brokeback Mountain among her favorites, adding that it should have won an Oscar for the best picture of 2005. "The Academy wasn't quite ready for it," she says.
David Kranz, professor emeritus of English and film studies, adopted a lighter touch—with a few literary exceptions. He opted for the wit of classic Hollywood's cream-of-the-crop screwball romantic comedies (Hepburn and Tracy, anyone? ), with dashes of musicals by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers on the side. Kranz taps into the dramatic classics as well, with Casablanca, Out of Africa and Swept Away ("the Italian  version—not the one by Madonna," he is quick to clarify).
The former English professor in Kranz couldn't resist recommending a little Shakespearian cinema, as well: Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet and The Taming of the Shrew and the 1993 version of Much Ado About Nothing.
Music to stir the soul
Robert Pound, associate professor of music, selects music that covers the full love-and-loss spectrum of emotions.
His first choice is the "Prelude" and "Liebestod" from Tristan and Isolde."It's a personal favorite of mine, though it evinces a rather grim notion of love," he says. Love's power and grandeur is depicted in the "Adagietto" of Mahler's Fifth Symphony. "It's a beautiful orchestral love song," Pound says.
To evoke a tender-hearted feeling, he recommends two arias from Mozart's Don Giovanni, as well as a piece from The Marriage of Figaro. Strauss' Rosenkavalier strums slightly different heartsrings, telling the story of a mature woman as she gazes wistfully at young love.
For Associate Professor of Music Blanka Bednarz, Valentine's Day is a time for sweeping works that pack a gothic punch. "Perhaps I turn toward the darker hues, but what is more beautiful than love felt by the depths of human spirit—love that transforms, longs, suffers, transcends?" she asks.
Her recommendations: Sweeping, passionate works by Mahler, Schuman, Szymanowski, Schoenberg, Prokofiev and Ravel. And Bernstein's West Side Story, of course. "What is more romantic than the song Maria?" she asks.
Her selections also include a work Mahler wrote as an expression of love for his wife, a Schoenberg piece based on a poem by Richard Dehmel, and Karol Szymanowski's Love Songs of Hafiz, Op. 26, inspired by Hans Bethge's paraphrases of poems by the 14th century Persian poet, Hafiz of Shiraz. "These songs shimmer with subtle, glimmering colors, producing musical pictures evocative of the impressionistic works of the Middle East," Bednarz describes. "For those who do not know Szymanowski's music, these songs will cause you to fall in love with him."