The Hint of a Heart Beneath the Hardness

by After the Lights Come On

Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a terrific action and suspense movie. It moves along at breakneck speed providing no pause to think and ponder. But then I didn’t need any, that is, not until this last line from Sarah Connor—“The unknown future rolls toward us. I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope. Because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too.” It was then that I realized that there was all along a heart beneath the glint of steel.

These hints of hearts get missed even when their bearers are flesh-and-blood characters. Like I did with Jason Bourne, Lisbeth Salander, and Sherlock Holmes. They are human characters and yet as I watched the movies and/or flipped through the stories, I was quite surprised to discover a heart beneath their rugged, tough, and steely exteriors. It was as if I had expected them to act just like any other machine.

With no past that he could remember and no memories to cherish, it is not hard to understand why Jason Bourne’s eyes do not show any emotion. He is no doubt, as efficient as a machine and almost acts like one too. Except when he decides to keep a photograph of him and Marie after burning all traces of her existence when she gets killed in Goa (The Bourne Supremacy). Or when he lingers over that partially-burned photograph on the train (The Bourne Ultimatum) and reminisces about Marie; the aching in his heart is very apparent.

Lisbeth Salander (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) is ruthless when she executes her revenge. The hardened look in her eyes has come about after many instances of abuse and throughout the movie, she comes across as an unsentimental person who is not to be messed with. And then this apparently “heartless” person goes and falls in love with journalist Mikael Blomkvist as they work together on an assignment. The latter of course, has other plans.

I am sure the sight of Mikael and Erika Berger walking happily and cozily wrapped around each other came as a crushing blow to Lisbeth and for a fleet second, I wondered who Lisbeth would next unleash her fury on—Mikael or the Other Woman.  But this time around, she not only displays a heart but also a level of maturity that her legal guardian had earlier accused her of lacking in. She is heartbroken as she realizes she has no romantic future with Mikael and then, rides away.

These hints of hearts in seemingly mechanical characters come as pleasant surprises. For Dr. Watson, catching a glimpse of a heart in Sherlock Holmes was an intensely emotional experience, in The Adventure of the Three Garridebs. Holmes and Watson confront a dangerous criminal and Watson gets shot. In an instant, Holmes springs to Watson’s aid and the latter does not fail to notice the concern and the angst in the detective’s eyes. Watson is touched: “It was worth a wound—it was worth many wounds—to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain.”

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