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The Affair “Parallel Lives” – Review (ep. 2)

“ I got married young. Straight out of college. I had a great girlfriend. She was beautiful. She was rich. She was kind of artsy, and I wanted to be beautiful, rich and artsy, so I married her. And I loved her. I should mention that. I did love her. I still love her. But if I had to do it again I…I’d have waited just a little bit longer…given myself a little more time to…see who I might become. There’s this hypothesis in theoretical physics that I used to love back at school, about time travel. About what would happen if you could travel back in time and make a different choice in your past, how that would affect your life in the future. So the theory goes that, um, your true life, your first life,continues as it, unchanged, but at the moment of decision, a new life splits off along a tangent into a parallel universe. So you could, in a way… live both life.”

There are moments in everyone’s life that are undecidedly marked by assumed errors. A love you betray, a word you break, a promise ( especially to yourself) you don’t keep. Things you can’t go back to. The moment you change irrevocably.

The Affair, in its second episode, conjures up the exact feeling of an assumed error conjugated with a sweet sensuality of words and feelings. The quality of the script doesn’t diminish a bit, doesn’t drag or slows the intimate rhythm of the first chapter,  on the contrary, it gets layers of sadness and poetry that escalate the episode to a sense of danger that becomes imminent.  We still get no word about who the mysterious victim is, the only hint we receive during the episode is that is someone Alison knew very well and is a male. Is it Cole? or Hal, Alison’s brother-in-law? Noah’s father in law? Someone we haven’t met?

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When talking to common friends about a common experience, we often are surprised that not everyone remembers the things as they were. Or, at least, as we remember them. Watching last week’s episode, I got the feeling that there was a sort of set up on Alison and Noah’a part to distort the truth. Now, I’m not convinced at all that this is the case. I think that both of them tell the truth of what they remember after some times has passed over them.  The experience has been filtered through emotions, obsessions, lust and guilt we don’t know anything about yet. In Noah’s account, Alison continues to be a provocateur. She invades Noah with her presence his senses, and even his want towards his legitimate wife. As a result, Noah masturbates in the shower at the memory of Alison while refusing to have intercourse with his wife. How and when does an obsession begin? Noah doesn’t remember, he’s already in the middle of it.

At his wife’s birthday party, Noah has a third encounter with Alison whom other men ( namely Helen’s father) see her cheaper than a prostitutes. At the same party, Noah claims that he finds out Alison is a married woman “Marriage means different things to different people” whispers Alison as if wanting to give him permission to dare more.  Which he does fully.  Alison admits only to the kissing part as being the “common ground” between the two as she lets herself be seduced by Noah’s long lost desire of living in a parallel universe even though probably he’s not the man she would wish for. The kiss is consensual.  I find it suggestive that on the beach Alison remarks the wrinkles on Noah’s face…as if he has already returned from his parallel life and could give her something she herself wants more than anything.

A masterful structure of storytelling sustains this story of extra-marital affair that could otherwise go to pieces. Narrating two perspectives ( so different from each other) does not only require a vast knowledge of the human psyche, but also a careful phrasing of dialogue which is sublime. Beyond wonderful performances of Dominic West and Ruth Wilson. I cannot but admire the writing talent of Sarah Treem and Hagai Levi who once again show you that “errare humanum est.”…it only remains to be seen how “diabolical” is the perseverance.

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