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ART & STYLE

6 Beloved Fictional Couples in History

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• With Valentine’s Day coming up, we’ve picked six fictional couples from the arts world to inspire you.

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Love is in the air…and in the arts! From literature to film to animation, love has always been one of the greatest inspirations for all forms of art. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, here are our top six fictional couples’ stories to warm your heart.

1. Cui Ying-ying and Zhang Sheng, Romance of the Western Chamber (circa 1260-1336)

Written by the playwright Wang Shifu, this is the tale of a young couple, Zhang Sheng and Cui Ying-ying, who overcome traditional barriers for the sake of love – and not without some drama. The duo first meet in a monastery and quickly fall in love. The plot thickens when a local bandit tries to take Ying-ying as his consort, her mother agrees to marry her to whoever manages to save her. But after Sheng has driven the ruffians away, she takes back her words because he is a poor scholar. Fortunately, with the help of Ying-ying’s maid, they manage to convince her mother and finally get their “happily ever after”.

2. Anonymous Couple, The Lovers I & II (1928)

No one knows who these lovebirds are in René Magritte’s surreal masterpieces, as their faces are covered by a white cloth. Other than that, they seem to be a perfectly normal couple: in The Lovers I, the pair are posing for a family portrait in a picturesque setting; in The Lovers II, they’re locked in a loving embrace, kissing one another. Do the veils represent communication issues, physical distance, or even death? There’s no right answer, but there’s something about these paintings that we can all relate to nowadays, what with masks and social distancing…

3. Maria and Tony, West Side Story (1957)

They’re the Romeo and Juliet of musical theatre: Maria and Tony’s romantic affair is doomed from the beginning as they come from two rival street gangs in New York City. Tony is a former Jet member and best friend of the gang leader, while Maria is the sister of the Sharks’ leader. Their story begins with a love-at-first-sight encounter, and the two, despite numerous obstacles, manage to stay in love until the end – and we mean, the end. Even though they suffer the same fate as Romeo and Juliet, their commitment to each other ultimately brings the gangs – and audiences everywhere – together.

4. Ho Po-wing and Lai Yiu-fai, Happy Together (1997)

The relationship between this on-again, off-again couple in Wong Kar-wai’s LGBT film is far from perfect. The lovers travel to Buenos Aires to see the Iguazu Falls, but they break up on the way after an argument. Without enough money to fly back home, they become stuck in Argentina, and finally reconcile when an injured Po-wing moves into Fai’s apartment (cue the film’s beautiful tango scene). Their relationship remains turbulent, however, which Fai realises is due to loneliness and jealousy. Spoiler: they don’t end up together, but perhaps that’s what makes their bittersweet story so real and relatable – and unforgettable.

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5. Ellie and Carl, Up (2009)

There’s no dialogue, yet Ellie and Carl’s story has moved many to tears during the opening sequence to Up. She is a free spirit and he is an introvert, but their differences haven’t stopped them from becoming best friends and getting married. For a while, everything seems bright and beautiful; but when Ellie suffers a miscarriage, she falls into a depression. Carl cheers her up by reminding her of their childhood dream to visit the Paradise Falls (Carl’s destination in the main plot). Though they never realise this dream, they live happily until Ellie passes away. The moment when Carl brings his dying wife a balloon, just as she has once brought him one, tugged tightly at our heartstrings, and brought on the waterworks.

6. Emily and Gabriel, Emily in Paris (2020)

Probably one of the most talked about Netflix pairings in 2020, Emily and Gabriel’s relationship is definitely a complicated one. They first meet in their apartment building as Emily, fresh from the US, mistook Gabriel’s apartment to be hers. They gradually develop feelings for each other, which eventually led Emily to kiss her handsome neighbour – only to learn that he’s dating her friend Camille. Meanwhile, Emily also has her fair share of suitors (any Mathieu fans?). By the end of Season One, it looks like Emily and Gabriel are finally both available – but we’ll have to wait till the next season to find out what happens next in the city of love!

Love the arts? Here are four cool local Instagram artists to inspire you.
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