“Do you believe in pre-marital sax?” – Billy Hicks
I would like to share with you my enduring affection for a seminal coming-of-age film, that while bold enough to emblazon teenagers as decadent archetypes, continues to leave me with a sense of affection for the protagonists, perhaps because they have come to represent elements of my own psyche, therefore its almost impossible to turn away from their plights and tribulations of maturity.
With this I refer no less to the wonderful and much maligned ‘St.Elmo’s Fire’.
So what’s the premise of this subjective classic? Like many others of this genre, the story tells of seven young adults moving from the security of adolescence, into the great unknown we call ‘life’. By life, I mean the now uncertainty of career choices, emotional maturity and discovery of the true self.
“Your movie teaches you what it is, not what you think it is” – Joel Schumacher
Taking each character in equal measure, the story of St.Elmo’s Fire graces us with a journey into the minds and hearts of a black sheep, aspiring lawyer, emotional martyr, politician, socialite, stepford wife and a struggling writer. Despite the aesthetic setting of Washington D.C., the loneliness and angst these youngsters disguise behind their arrogant musings, becomes more visible each time I engage with the film.
Perhaps more notably, the production quality is high, albeit accidental, as the 2:35:1 aspect ratio adds a maturity to proceedings, and I just love some of the exterior shots for their autumnal hues and sense of romantic opulence. The David Foster score also separates this film from its contemporaries, largely due to the classically intellectual feel, and yet you cannot help feeling somewhat ‘pumped’ when listening to John Parr’s ‘Man in Motion’.
For reasons that defy any real explanation, I love this film, I have continued to love it, and even feel a sense of exclusivity because I view it free from popular consensus. In fact, every visit to Georgetown reveals new subtleties and moments of reflection, so I cannot imagine growing weary of this cinematic pleasure.
Perhaps because much like these wonderfully written yet superficial friends, I have also felt the grief that maturity brings, so cannot but hold a candle for the unblemished honesty of youth, and the arrogance we lose as the years accumulate.
Ultimately, St.Elmo’s Fire finds itself a mass of contradictions, torn between humour and drama for drama’s sake, but it’s that flaw which brings me back time and time again, and leaves me feeling oddly fulfilled when the final credits roll.
Because after all, beauty is undoubtedly in the eye of the beholder.