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A Charming Look at Active Aging: 'Harold and Maude'

Discover the inspiring journey of the movie "Harold and Maude" and how it invites us to reflect on active aging. Through this heartwarming story, we explore the importance of living life to the fullest, cherishing every moment, and embracing the wisdom that aging can bring. It's a true celebration of life at all ages!

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In the 1970s, I had the opportunity to watch the movie "Harold and Maude" for the first time. The story deeply enchanted me back then. At the age of 13, I had no idea what aging was all about, let alone the concept of active aging. In fact, my friends and I believed that youth was an eternal reality and that we would live forever.

It seems that something peculiar happened while watching this cinematic masterpiece. It wasn't the young protagonist, who lacked a zest for life, that captured your attention. Instead, it was the lovely lady, masterfully portrayed by Ruth Gordon, a character who stole trees and evaded the police.

What a delightful and whimsical idea you had at that moment! It's amazing how our youthful thoughts and dreams can be so innocent and full of wonder. Looking back, you may realize the naivety, but the memory still brings warmth and a smile to your face.

I'm thrilled to join you on this unforgettable journey of discovery and reflection on the movie "Harold and Maude". Let's embark on this adventure together! Feel free to share your thoughts, insights, and emotions as we explore the profound themes of the film and the impact it had on your perception of life and aging.

The script (Spoilers ahead for those who haven't seen the movie "Harold and Maude.")

'Harold and Maude' is a script from the 1970s, initially written for the theater by Colin Higgins, which tells the story of the unlikely friendship and romance between young Harold and the eccentric Maude. Although there is limited information available on its theatrical performance, it is known that the play didn't achieve much success at the time. Interestingly, in the 1980s, a musical adaptation of the script was attempted on Broadway but was discontinued after only four performances.

However, it is the romantic comedy, directed by Hal Ashby, that has reached us today in the form of a movie. It addresses themes such as active aging, intergenerational relationships, mortality, but primarily, the meaning of life.

The history

The story revolves around Harold, a young teenager obsessed with death and bored with life, who lives in a mansion with his socially ambitious mother. His peculiar hobby is attending funerals of strangers. It's during one of these funerals that he meets Maude, a 79-year-old woman who is free-spirited and full of energy.

Despite their significant age and personality differences, Harold and Maude develop a unique friendship and spend a lot of time together. Maude's philosophy teaches Harold to appreciate the beauty of life.

The movie has many touching and humorous moments: "Harold's deaths," where his fascination with death leads him to frequently stage fake suicides; an amusing encounter with a priest at a stranger's funeral, who tries to console Harold, assuming he is related to the deceased; and driving lessons, where Harold is told to start the car and "follow his heart." However, among all the funny moments in the film, one stands out as a powerful message: the tree theft!

Maude is a passionate environmental activist, and upon discovering that a tree will be cut down to make way for a new development, she decides to take action. With Harold's help, Maude plans an operation to 'liberate' the threatened tree. They manage to bring down the tree and carry it with the intention of replanting it. While they admire the result of their action, they are surprised by the arrival of the police. With a look of amusement and defiance, Maude grabs Harold's hand and leads him into an exciting chase, with the police running after them. They eventually succeed in replanting the tree with great care.

This scene captures the essence of the film, with Maude teaching Harold to value life, freedom, and the importance of fighting for what one believes in. The tree theft becomes an act of resistance and love for nature, bringing out Maude's adventurous and fearless spirit.

The death of Maude and Harold's transformation

The death of Maude is another poignant moment. Both in the play and the movie, Maude dies in a self-determined manner. However, the exact way she dies is portrayed subtly and poetically, leaving room for different interpretations. Throughout the story, Maude reveals to Harold that she is about to turn 80 and expresses her desire to leave this world while she still feels alive and fulfilled. Thus, Maude chooses to ingest a lethal dose of pills shortly after her 80th birthday. Despite the questionable aspect of her choice, Maude leaves the message of how crucial it is to live life to the fullest and embrace each moment with authenticity and passion.

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The final scene shows Harold and his sorrow over Maude's loss. In the movie 'Harold and Maude,' Harold is in the car driving at high speed and heading towards a cliff. Everything seems to indicate that he is about to take his own life, following his macabre staged patterns. However, what happens is surprising; the car goes over the cliff, but we see Harold with his banjo, celebrating life. He understands the true meaning of life and the joy of living it to the fullest.

Would Maude be a Vintage Teenager?

This is a difficult question to answer, but I would like to make some connections:

Maude is an elderly, vibrant, and eccentric woman in the film. Although she is not a teenager in the literal sense, she embodies many aspects that can be related to the concept of a "vintage teenager."

Free-Spirited and Nonconformist: Maude is known for her free-spirited nature, which leads her to live life authentically, without worrying about social conventions. She dresses in extravagant clothes, embraces a hippie attitude, and adopts a carefree philosophy of life. This detachment from social norms is something valued by those seeking to break free from contemporary expectations and embrace unique individuality.

Appreciation of the Past: Maude lives intensely in the present, but she also demonstrates a profound appreciation for the past. She values history and art, finding beauty in things that others might consider old-fashioned or outdated.

Valuing Authentic Experiences: Maude seeks meaningful and authentic experiences in her life. She finds beauty in simplicity and in connecting with people and nature, prioritizing genuine emotions over appearances.

Carpe Diem Philosophy: Maude lives by the motto "carpe diem" - seize the day and live life to the fullest. This philosophy of living intensely in the present and embracing opportunities resonates with vintage teenagers, who also seek to make the most out of their lives and experiences.

Important Note: Colin Higgins' script, written in the 1970s and widely staged in theaters in various countries, addresses Maude's decisions regarding the end of her life. It is essential to clarify that the correlation between Maude and the concept of a Vintage Teenager is not related to her final choices. On the contrary, the intention is to highlight the positive aspect of her life philosophy and the impact it had on Harold, emphasizing the importance of active aging and cherishing every moment. The movie "Harold and Maude" invites us to reflect on the beauty of life and the significance of living it with authenticity, passion, and wisdom, regardless of age.

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