The Greatest Thing You’ll Ever Learn Is To Love And Be Loved In Return!

Posted on May 20, 2010


Last Sunday night, I watched Moulin Rouge with Erika who is a huge fan. I was impressed at how well it stands the test of time. The energy and dexterity of the first half of the film, in particular, is exhilarating.

On more than one occasion, I wondered how the creative team even conceived the images I was watching. I can’t even imagine how they planned to make them. I’d love to see the story board!

On that night, an important element of the film, which I had previously overlooked, resonated. The film’s principal claim, which is lifted from “Nature Boy”, an eden ahbez song made famous by Nat King Cole, is this: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love and be loved in return.”

Here is a clip of Cole’s version. It’s actually quite lovely!

I suspect I overlooked Moulin Rouge’s claim the first time I saw the film, in part, because the overall tenor of the film works against the claim’s sentiment. Christian is clearly distraught, the Moulin Rouge itself is destroyed, and Satine was destined to die either way.

One wouldn’t have to squint too hard to think the movie intends to deny the notion that the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love and be loved in return. Lives were thrown away for one happy day and the film does not suggest unequivocally that the correct decision was made.

I suspect I also overlooked the film’s main claim because when I first saw it I was still testing my “Love is dead!” hypothesis. At the time, I was probably too busy raging against the love machine to be moved by — or even notice — such a sentiment.

Fast forward nine years, and I’m happy to say ahbez is correct.

Do you agree or disagree?

Read the follow up to this post (my most viewed ever).