Set aside the candy hearts and press pause on romantic comedies. Like the fate of star-crossed lovers from classic stories of forbidden love—Antony and Cleopatra, Orpheus and Eurydice, Romeo and Juliet—Saint Valentine, himself, suffered an untimely death, executed for marrying those unable to wed. In the spirit of these lovers lost, we present Bill Viola’s Fall into Paradise, which depicts the legendary forbidden love story of Tristan and Isolde.
In the video at right, Viola’s film serves as the backdrop of Richard Wagner’s 19th-century opera, Tristan und Isolde, telling the story of the princess and knight who mistakenly drink a love potion and fall irreparably in love, but can never be together. Viola’s film shows the pair as a speck of light that evolves into male and female forms, escaping their material world. “Tristan und Isolde is the story of a love so intense and profound that it cannot be contained in the material bodies of the lovers,” Viola has said. “In order to fully realise their love, Tristan and Isolde must ultimately transcend life itself.”