Witness to Love


James Spader and Susan Sarandon, White Palace, Universal Pictures, 1990

by Masha Tupitsyn

Seeing love on people’s faces.

When these screen lovers see each other again… When any screen lovers see each other again…

Do we see (have) these kinds of moments of seeing in real life or do they happen only in camera space? In the fiction of movies. Is the face of the lover loving and seeing the lover restricted to mise-en-scène? Is the lover’s face just another visual trope? Two visual tropes = Love. Seeing the seeing. It’s true, love is also a reaction shot. But who is witness to the reaction shot off-screen? And what is our reaction to love off-screen? In real life there is maybe only the diegetic. No one sees what you are living through. Certainly not what it looks like for you to live through it. Certainly no one sees your face looking at another face. This is why we have literature. And pictures. This is the engine of cinema, where the human face is always an action hero. But by the time art is made of it — of love — it is something else entirely. What is it exactly that we need for others to see that they can’t see? Love needs witnesses (Old English witnes, “attestation of fact, event, etc., from personal knowledge”), as that is precisely one of the things that love is: seeing and being seen.


The story is (told to me a couple of years ago by a reliable source) that these two had an intense affair while making White Palace. Susan Sarandon wanted to leave Tim Robbins for James Spader. Of course we never saw any of this.

About the Author:

Masha Tupitsyn is a writer, cultural critic, and multi-media artist. She is the author of Love Dog (Penny-Ante Editions, 2013), LACONIA: 1,200 Tweets on Film (ZerO Books, 2011), Beauty Talk & Monsters, a collection of film-based stories (Semiotext(e) Press, 2007), and co-editor of the anthology Life As We Show It: Writing on Film (City Lights, 2009). Her fiction and criticism has appeared or is forthcoming in the anthologies Women in Clothes (Penguin, 2014), The Force of What’s Possible (Nightboat Books, 2014), The American Tetralogy (Blackjack Editions, 2013), Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology (2012), The Encyclopedia Project Volume 2 (F-K) (2010) and Volume 3 (L-Z) (2014), and Wreckage of Reason: XXperimental Women Writers Writing in the 21st Century (Spuyten Duyvil, 2008), with additional works published by The White Review, The New Inquiry, Fence, Bookforum, The Rumpus, Boing Boing, Indiewire’s Press Play, Animal Shelter, the Shepparton Art Museum, and Ryberg Curated Video.