I first watched Harold and Maude(1971) when I was around thirteen years old. Back then the character I found the most interesting was Harold. Probably because I thought all the the different ways he pretended to commit suicide shocking and funny. I recently re-watched the film now at age twenty-three. I now better understand why Harold pretend to commit suicide, which is too feel something in that cold unfeeling large mansion. But the character that fascinates me the most is Maude. Her character is all about living fully even though she is at the end of her life.
We live in a society that is afraid of old age, but Maude fully embraces all of her eighty years. Harold first purposefully meets Maude while she is being painted…naked. Her wrinkles and wisdom make her beautiful. What I think intrigues me the most about Maude is how much she embraces life. She teaches Harold to embrace every day.
Maude invented a record player that “plays” scents from clouds in New York city to a textured library, and other fantastical inventions. This invention is goes part of her determination to live life to the fullest. She experiences all the different senses not just sight and sound. She even teaches Harold how to play the Banjo. Maude and Harold sing songs together like “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out”, which they do as they somersault around a park.
Whenever films show any sort of character male or female who live outside the law they portray them as angry and aggressive. Maude lives completely outside the law not accepting the police as any sort of authority in her life, but she is still respectful. For example, Maude spots a dingy little tree in the city sidewalk. She decides that the tree needs to be in the country so she removes the plant. Then crazily drives the tree to some forest. Her frantic driving seems to suggest her desire to not waste too much time waiting to experience everything.
But even while breaking several laws including going around stealing cars, Maude still politely says hello to the police. She never truly shows any malice not even when the police attempts to arrest her. In Maude’s mind she is just helping the tree live the most comfortable full live.
Maude is a fully feminist character because she subverts the patriarchal world. Our society was created using rules of western heteronormativity, so women rebelling against the system is feminist. Maude never lets men order her around or make her passive. Maude never subverts in a violent way only by embracing life. She is the definition of agency.