【媒庫文選】“封城”時期的數字情書:《電子情書》何以重回千禧一代視野
2020年05月28日15:45

原標題:【媒庫文選】“封城”時期的數字情書:《電子情書》何以重回千禧一代視野

The digital love letters of lockdown: why You’ve Got Mail is back on millennial screens “封城”時期的數字情書:《電子情書》何以重回千禧一代視野

By Susannah Goldsbrough 蘇珊娜·戈茲布拉夫

“I hear nothing, not even a sound on the streets of New York, just the beat of my own heart. I have mail. From you.”

The silence on today’s streets is more likely to be caused by a pandemic-induced lockdown than Meg Ryan’s adrenaline-raised heartbeat. Nevertheless, the opening lines of Nora Ephron’s 1998 rom-com seem to be resonating: the film’s arrival on Netflix this month has prompted a wave of nostalgic re-watching.

Millennial taste-maker Dolly Alderton declared on Twitter: “You’ve Got Mail is a perfect screenplay, there is not one word that isn’t perfect” – and received a burst of general agreement.

So why does this tale of an unlikely, email-fuelled romance between the owner of an independent children’s bookshop (Ryan) and the tycoon who presides over a Barnes & Noble-esque chain (Hanks) speak to our lockdown plight?

Two New Yorkers who met in a digital chat room exchange long, intimate messages while knowing virtually nothing about each other. Their professional animosity is offset by their digital intimacy, but not the kind that dating-app addicts would recognise.

The emails give the relationship meaning, not the other way around. And since Ryan’s character finds so much to enjoy in the lexicon of Pride and Prejudice, it seems unfair to use such an unromantic term as email. These are digital love letters.

This explains why lonely people across the world right now, walled away from their friends and lovers, are watching You’ve Got Mail. I ask one friend why she has started writing to the boyfriend she hasn’t seen since lockdown began. “I miss talking over dinner,” she replies. Letters have proved the best approximators of conversations that stretch and bubble in unpredictable directions. “It’s like hearing her think,” says another. “And that’s about as close as you can get.”

Another friend wrote a letter to his ex after watching Normal People, the BBC’s hit adaptation of Sally Rooney’s story of first love; he decided, however, not to send it. It was “remorseful, nostalgic and completely overwrought,” he admits, “and so clearly about me processing things rather than having anything worth communicating.”

But this is a truth about letters in general: they’re always more about the writer than the recipient. And in lockdown, that’s precisely their charm. More permanent than a phone call, more physical than a Zoom, they offer themselves up as little proxy pieces of the sender, ink-smudged or pencil-furry, crisp or yellowing. You can hold them close, as you can’t hold the one to whom they’re addressed.

And beyond the individual connections, there’s comfort in the knowledge that even as the world freezes for this long, long moment, as cars sit idle in driveways and the sky is emptied of planes, the post is still being delivered. Some things, it seems, never change.

One friend is a prolific postcard writer. She describes the pleasures of a postcard’s enforced briefness, the inevitable slide from the generic greeting, in large loopy letters, to the cramped scramble at the end, when the writer is suddenly caught by a thought they really want to share and they have to squish it into the dwindling space.

So much of Hanks and Ryan’s digital letters feel like this: sudden thoughts that catch them and demand to be shared, random but precise. They write to each other of bagel shops and butterflies, of Joni Mitchell and grief. The scope of a letter is small and specific, but that is what makes it intimate.

“People say things in writing that they would never say over text or even face to face,” muses my postcard philosopher. “A letter sits you down and makes you acknowledge what you most want to say to that person, with no assurance of reply. Every letter is a profession of love.”

“我什麼都聽不見,甚至聽不見紐約街頭的一絲聲響,只聽到自己的心跳。我有新郵件。你發來的。”

讓今天的街道陷入沉寂的可能是大流行病引發的“封城”,而非梅格·瑞安在腎上腺素的作用下加快的心跳。儘管如此,諾拉·艾芙隆1998年執導的這部愛情喜劇的開場白似乎正在激起共鳴:本月登陸奈飛的這部影片掀起了一波引發懷舊情緒的重溫經典風潮。

千禧一代潮流引領者多莉·奧爾德頓在推特網上宣稱:“《電子情書》的電影劇本堪稱完美,無一句不完美。”——並引來一大片讚同之聲。

那麼,一間獨立經營的童書店的店主(瑞安)和掌管巴恩斯-諾布爾式連鎖書店的大老闆(漢克斯)之間這個看似不可能發生的因電子郵件而起的愛情故事為何緊扣我們的“封城”困境?

兩個在數字聊天室相遇的紐約人在彼此幾乎一無所知的情況下,交流了長長的親密信息。職業上的敵對被數字世界的親密抵消,但不是沉迷約會應用的人所體會的那種親密。

電子郵件賦予了這段關係以意義,而不是反過來。鑒於瑞安飾演的角色從《傲慢與偏見》的用詞中感受到了極大的快樂,使用電子郵件這樣一個不浪漫的詞似乎有失公允。這是數字情書。

正因為如此,世界各地與朋友、戀人分隔兩處的孤單的人此刻正在觀看《電子情書》。我問一位朋友,為何開始給自“封城”以來還沒見過面的男友寫信。她回答:“我想念吃晚飯時的聊天。”事實證明,信件最接近天馬行空般的談話。另一個朋友說:“看到信就像是聽到了她的所思所想。你所能達到的最親近的狀態莫過於此。”

還有個朋友在看了英國廣播公司根據薩莉·魯尼筆下的初戀故事改編的熱門電視劇《普通人》後,給前任寫了封信;不過,他決定不將信發走。他承認,信中充滿“悔恨、戀舊、過於矯情,很顯然是我自己在消化一些事情,而不是有什麼東西值得交流”。

不過這正是總體而言關於信件的真相:它們向來更多地與寫信人而不是收信人有關。而在“封城”期間,這恰恰是信件的魅力所在。比電話恒久,比軟視頻有形,借助洇暈的墨水痕跡或是模糊的鉛筆字跡,發脆抑或泛黃的紙張,它們讓自己成為發信人的小小替身。你可以抱緊它們,權當抱住收信的那個人。

除了建立個人之間的聯繫,令人感到安慰的是,當全世界在這個極其漫長的時刻凝固,當汽車閑置在車道上,當空中不見飛機的蹤跡,你知道郵件依然在被投遞。有些東西似乎從未改變。

一位朋友是個多產的明信片寫手,她描述了明信片強加於人的簡潔所帶來的樂趣:從字大行稀的泛泛問候不可避免地落入末了在侷促空間里製造的混亂,那時書寫者突然冒出很想與對方分享的一個念頭,於是不得不將它擠進越來越狹小的空白處。

漢克斯和瑞安的許多數字情書就給人這樣的感覺:突然的念頭襲上心頭,需要與對方分享,隨意但確切。他們在信中提起百吉餅店與蝴蝶,提起喬妮·米切爾與憂傷。信件所涉及的內容細小而具體,但正因為如此才讓它顯得親密。

我的那位明信片哲人朋友沉吟道:“人們用書寫的方式說出他們決不會通過短信甚至當面說出的話。信件讓你坐下來,讓你在不確信會得到回覆的情況下坦承最想對那個人說的話。每封信都是愛的表白。”(李鳳芹譯自英國《每日電訊報》5月12日文章)

更多新聞