12 May 2009

l'auberge espagnole

This movie ("The Spanish Apartment" in English) is a simple and lively slice-of-life look at a group of European 20-somethings living together in Barcelona. Are there dramatic character arcs with major epiphanies? Not exactly. Some of the characters get away with things they shouldn't and don't learn from (or even react to) things they should. But it's a near-perfect snapshot of 20-something life: trying to figure out who we are in the world, how we want to relate to and connect with others, how we want our relationships to be, the rapid falling in and out of love-- and the confusing, bumbling mistakes we make in the process.

For me, I'm past that point in my life, but it reminded me of my junior year abroad in Geneva and how much I learned, living with Belgians, Egyptians, Macedonians, Italians and so on. Many of us spoke broken French on our good days, and we often gestured and played charades just to convey simple ideas. We were a quirky bunch, and there were definitely some odd (and usually short-lived) pairings over the year.

Like the film, though, there was also an immediate sense of bonding and family (albeit a very diverse one), since we were all away from our regular friends and family (and lives and identities). We shared the feeling of wanting to just dive in: immersing ourselves in the language, the culture, and the nonstop learning, through coursework and research, yes, but also just through learning about each other. I took long walks with my Belgian friend, talking about life, capitalism, relationships and how to be a good person in the modern world. I lived with a Swiss-German, who has become one of my favorite people in the world, and a zany Italian, who I bumped into unexpectedly in Berkeley. (Speaking of random, I also bumped into another Belgian I studied with in Geneva while hiking in Washington, DC, who warned us that he and his friends had just seen some bears. It really is a small world.)

The movie shows the messy, shared Barcelona apartment as something of an escape from real relationships and responsibility, but I think there is value in stopping the growth process for a minute and just savoring being young and curious. And later, when you fall in love, and someone asks you to marry them, it's a lot easier to say yes when you've already sown your wild oats. Then, you can be a happy married old lady with no regrets.

Now, pardon me while I go bake some cupcakes.