The Twilight Saga franchise is worth billions of dollars. It has caused legions of teenaged girls (and sometimes, creepily, their mothers) to line up for each film's opening show days in advance. It has spurred the creation of a new vocabulary — ask any "TwiHard" what "Team" they're on and they'll have an answer ready. It has moved its fans to tears. It is not, however, good. And New Moon is widely considered the worst installment of the mediocre franchise. The series' second film centers on the premise that Bella (played by Kristen Stewart) is so in love with Edward (Robert Pattinson) that she would rather kill herself than live a life without him. Suicide in the name of first love is not something that I, personally, advocate. However, there is one moment in New Moon that is, indeed, genuinely good: When Bella jumps off the cliff.
I, in no way shape or form, condone Bella's decision to hurtle herself off a cliff into the rough and icy waters below in order to see Edward once again. But when she does, the audience is treated to a haunting underwater dreamscape. As Bella floats formlessly under the surface — knocked unconscious by a crashing wave — we are given a first glimpse of what Bella will one day become. Drowning, Bella has gone pale, and as a vision of Edward is conjured next to her, we see that for the first time she is the same hue as her undead lover. Bella has momentarily become a corpse — but not in the way she hoped for. She is not a member of the living dead but, momentarily, the actual dead.
The otherworldly melody of "Slow Life" by Grizzly Bear provides the foundation for Bella's graceful, watery brush with death. And in this moment, music and landscape join together to create a perfectly eerie tableau. The scene, buoyed by this choice of music, has an unexpected calmness and peace to it. You almost want Bella to be able to stay in this transient moment with her lovely vision of Edward forever. How much simpler and safer it is than the harsh world on land. But, as a mysterious hand reaches out to pull Bella to the safety of the surface, the dreamy music stops and we are brought abruptly back to the dangerous reality of this moment.
This scene highlights what Twilight is able to do best: visually capture the characters' dark interiority. While Twilight parades as a love story, it is at its core a dark, twisted fantasy — its subject matter is enough to make Kanye proud. Bella's love for Edward is more like infatuation; it is all-encompassing, obsessive and, ultimately, self-destructive. This is not an ordinary (or healthy) love story, and the films are most successful when they portray it for what it is. In those occasional moments when the grotesque terror shines — or glowers, as the case may be — through the stilted dialogue and one-dimensional characterizations, we are given a glimpse at what The Twilight Saga could have been.
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[Photo Credit: Summit]
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