“Alec, you’re famous! People will listen to you,” says Alec Baldwin to himself, a few moments before sharing the details of his arrest in Cairo, his journey to Italy on a desperately overcrowded fishing boat, and his eventual arrival in the unfamiliar city of Berlin on a rainy day in September 2015. Cut. Julianne Moore briefly fixes her hair. And then recounts the brutal attack that she and her children survived back home, shattering what had been a comfortable life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and leaving her with no choice but to smuggle herself and her children – via an endless journey in the back of a windowless truck – towards an uncertain future in an unknown country. In our first encounter with Love Story, Moore and Baldwin address us via a large projection, to speak of past anguish and hope for the future, of forced migration and loss, but also of the comfort of safety, friendship and love. They send shivers down our spines. We feel for them and with them, although the experiences that they articulate are obviously not their own and – for the most part – unlikely to be ours. Such is the power of cinema. Who would deny its ability to create illusion?
Yet these narratives of escape and of fresh beginning are hardly delivered to us seamlessly. Breitz has recruited two familiar faces – two members of the global media family that we’re accustomed to welcoming into our living rooms – only to put into their mouths the stories of people who are generally treated as faceless and voiceless in our culture, only so as to introduce us to those who are typically destined to remain outside and beyond our zones of comfort: isolated in refugee camps and asylum courtrooms, relegated to the basement of our social (un)conscious. Over the course of seventy-three minutes, the montage featuring Baldwin and Moore suspends us between cinema-at-its-best – a dramatized narration that moves us to tears and to laughter; and the inevitably awkward spectacle that ensues as we observe two highly-privileged celebrities attempting to earnestly channel lives that could not be more remote from their own. We are alternately moved and utterly perturbed. What business do major stars of the hegemonic American storytelling industry – with their iconic onscreen presence and professionally polished delivery – have slipping into these roles?