OLD SOUL: “Neighbours”- What An Anti-War Film Says About Divorce

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By Maria Rodriguez

Over the course of quarantine, I’ve fallen in love with the art of filmmaking (probably because of my formerly frequent binge-watching). I especially enjoy watching films from the early 20th century. They never failed to enchant me; the simple effects of today being the innovation of yesterday, how classic elements withstood the test of time. 

One short film from the 50s I found the most interesting is entitled “Neighbours” by Norman McLaren, a Scottish Canadian filmmaker. It tells the story of two contrastingly opposite neighbours who end up fighting over a flower that grew in the middle of their property boundary. They both seemed to love the flower way too much. Thanks to their constant fighting and fixation on who should have the flower, it becomes the cause of their death and the flower gets trampled on in the process. As time passes by, the same kind of flower grows on each neighbour’s grave. The film’s stop-motion effects were amazing considering the fact it was made in the 1950s, but its purpose was to support and advocate for the anti-war movement. We may be in the middle of  “World War 3” today, but I’m talking about another war: The Committee on Population and Family Relations of the House of Representatives approving Rissa Hontiveros’ refiling of the divorce bill. 

I assume you have heard this phrase at least once: “All is fair in love and war.” I may be over-exaggerating, but love and romance is somewhat a war: The push and pull between two people “in love,” but often don’t really love each other ― yet (I’m sure all you married people understand this; the “honeymoon period”). Norman McLaren’s film “Neighbours” is an example of why divorce shouldn’t exist ― not just in the Philippines; it shouldn’t exist in any other part of this world. Think of the neighbours in the film as parents and the flower as their child. Parents may fight excessively, perhaps over what’s good for their child. They get so caught up in their emotions, thinking that it’s for their son and/or daughter, without realising that they are trampling on the “flower”.

Divorce validates the spouse’s hatred towards each other, it makes them think it’s ok (yes, of course, it’s normal for couples to have discussions and issues, it’s part of having a relationship), but it damages children ―especially if the cause of the argument was over the children’s welfare. It would often make them believe it was their fault that their parents split up. The children will be torn between two individuals who were formerly made ONE by the vow of marriage; the difficult pressure of having to take sides. Of course, abusive marriages must be dealt with and undone, but first of all, marriage is a mutual agreement between a man and woman.  If one spouse or both were never committed nor willing (just forced) there was no marriage at all, it is not a valid marriage, it is void. Sure, divorce may be described as “pro-children.”  If people will marry more than once, they will have a lot of children. 

Divorce can also be described as “pro-family,” since a person will have a variety of children from different partners. And most importantly, divorce breaks the vow of marriage. What is marriage then, when one can conveniently file for a divorce? What will marriage become? A broken promise? A means of accumulating material wealth? A way to distort morality? A method of internally tormenting children??? I know this article is easier to write compared to experiencing marriage itself, but I am also a member of a family. And I cannot imagine nor comprehend life with 2 sets of formerly married parents. Marriage is a vow meant to be made with the deepest form of sincerity and trust. I am not married, I have never gotten married, I am just a minor, and I am against divorce.

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