Night at the movies: ‘Harold and Maude’

“Harold and Maude” is a 1971 dark comedy about an unlikely romance between death-obsessed Harold and life-loving Maude. Harold, a 19-year-old with an overbearing mother, has a fascination with all things morbid. He drives a hearse and enjoys staging suicide scenes to scare his mother (usually unsuccessfully) and attending strangers’ funerals.

At one funeral, he meets Maude, a peculiar onlooker who has a funny habit of stealing cars and resisting authority.

At their first meeting, Maude brags that she’ll be 80 years old the next week, the same age as the dead guy they’re mourning, whom neither of them knew. She mentions 80 years was good timing for the man—might as well move on at 80. Maude later exclaims that she knows that she and Harold will be great friends eventually.

The next day, at the end of another funeral, Harold gives Maude a ride home (after she tries to steal his hearse). She says that she had never driven a hearse before, and she loves experiencing new things, which is why she drives off in a variety of cars. Harold suggests that her stealing upsets people, but Maude shrugs it off, saying that she’s merely reminding people not to get attached to things. “Here today, gone tomorrow,” she says with a perky smile.

Upon looking at Harold and Maude together, they make a very odd pair by today’s standards, so one can only imagine how extreme the coupling would have seemed when the film first came out in the early 70s. Harold and Maude are a duo that is on different, extreme ends of the character spectrum from each other. Harold—young, depressed and constrained—is oddly drawn to Maude, a much older woman who has seen the beauty and ugliness of life and still loves every bit of it. But, unbeknownst to Harold, she also has a fondness for death.

Although slow at times, the film builds up into a morbidly comical and endearing story that one cannot deny being affected by in some way. As the film progresses, Harold learns to find delight in life, while Maude jumps to the other side of the spectrum and embraces her eventual demise. Facing death may not be fun for everyone, but if one can have a sense of humor about it, Harold and Maude is a memorable find for any movie buff.

“Harold and Maude” is a quirky film that speaks a truth that is still relevant today. We often don’t appreciate the joys in life until we are near the end. The ideas presented in the film are simple yet extremely profound. The cinematography is done well; many of the visuals hold great, yet subtle, significance to the story—showing without telling.

The Alamo Drafthouse Park North is screening this cult classic on Wednesday, March 7, at 7 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. Be sure to catch this film and learn to experience life a little recklessly.