‘Topaz’: Romance in a Violent World

People fall in love everywhere, all the time. They fall for fellow workers and comrades. They flirt in dirty bomb shelters in much the same way they meet in beautiful marketplaces. Naked, both emotionally and physically, we are all quite similar and circumstances just make us more or less creative about finding ways into one another’s hearts. Hitchcock’s 1969 adaptation of the book by Leon Uris, ‘Topaz’ contains parallel subplots of romance which are as important as the international crisis at the center of the story. The violence of countries spying on one another, plotting damage to each other’s territories and populations is horrific and disturbing, but it is the perfect backdrop for desire. French agent André Devereaux (Frederick Stafford) and his Cuban rebel lover, Juanita de Cordoba (Karin Dor), exist at the epicenter of the cold war. Their love softens the pain of world affairs, even those which they have a hand in turning. They are partners in peace…they literally make love and try in their own ways to end the unjust brewing of war.  Of course, their love is forbidden on two levels:  he is a married French spy on Cuban soil. Cordoba is shot when she is found to be working against the army- killed by the general who wanted her for himself. He chooses his war mission over saving her life, which settles in stark contrast to Deveraux’s and her mutual cause. The subplot of love and love lost informs us of the purpose of the characters who survive.

The parallel love story is between Deveraux and his wife, Nicole (Dany Robin). Both are equally unfaithful. They leave each other- he leaves on business, she leaves him. Still, they always return in support of their shared mission to squash the Soviet forces, which is actually much nobler than a job, for a safe country holds more promise for love. Nicole refers to herself as a “free woman”, since Deveraux leaves her on business. He does not ever disagree. They come together, ebb and flow, because their love is mature and that maturity allows them to drift into their own experiences and return to the home they share without the external forces squeezing life out of their internal urges. It is a special kind of relationship, for they never tire of one another, fight, or take greedily from each other’s emotional reserves. The relationships in the story are well-developed and support the plot admirably and memorably.

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