Whether they be real life moments captured on film or moments recreated in paintings, plays, sculptures and movies, few sights are as powerful and capable of stirring up so much emotion and passion as a kiss.
10. My God, Help me to Survive This Deadly Love
photo: Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F088809-0038 / Thurn, Joachim F. / CC-BY-SA
In 1979, Leonid Brezhnev, a member of the Russian Communist Party, and Eric Honecker, the General Secretary of the German Socialist Party, met in East Germany to celebrate the anniversary of its founding as a Communist nation. During this meeting, the two embraced in what is known as a ‘Kremlin Kiss’; a special form of greeting between the statesmen of Communist countries. The photograph became widely circulated throughout international newspapers. In 1990, Dmitri Vrubel, a graffiti artist, created the painting on the Berlin Wall, where it quickly became one of the best known works of graffiti. After the fall of the wall the painting was selected to be on display. Due to vandalism and natural deterioration, the painting was completely erased in 2009 to allow Vrubel the opportunity to repaint it with much more durable paints.
Sam Raimi’s 2002 superhero adaptation brought us the origin of Marvel’s iconic webbed superhero Spider-Man. After a brief stint exploiting his powers, Spider-Man’s initial arrogance leads to the death of his Uncle Ben. Following this he takes heed of his uncle’s final words “with great power comes great responsibility” and dedicates his time to fighting crime. Amongst all the action, Peter Parker falls head over heels in love with the literal girl-next-door, MJ Watson, who is more interested in the web-slinger than his alter ego. Throughout the adventure, Mary Jane finds herself in trouble many times with Spidey always coming to the rescue. They finally embrace with an upside-down kiss in the rain as Spidey hangs down from overhead. Many felt the scene tread the line between corny and romantic, but the chemistry helped the moment become memorable (it won an MTV award for ‘Best Kiss’ – the movie industry’s only accolade for onscreen embraces) and it has since become an iconic movie moment.
8. First Kiss on Film
In 1896, Thomas Edison distributed one of the first films to ever be shown commercially. Lasting only 47 seconds long, the film stars May Irwin and John Rice as they reenact a kiss from the final scene of the stage musical ‘The Widow Jones’. The film caused a huge uproar upon release, with several news articles deploring its content and calls for police action in locations who were showing it. Edison advertised it as two characters who “get ready to kiss, begin to kiss, and kiss and kiss and kiss in a way that brings the house down every time”. Despite (or because of) all the protest it caused at the time, it was deemed ‘culturally significant’ in 1999 by the Library of Congress and was selected to be preserved in the National Film Registry.
7. Sunday Bloody Sunday
1971 saw the release of Sunday Bloody Sunday; a film directed by John Schlesinger telling the story of a bisexual artist (Murray Head) and his relationships with both a female consultant (Glenda Jackson) and a male Jewish doctor (Peter Finch). The film portrayed its gay characters as successful and relatively well-adjusted as opposed to feeling alienated and self-loathing, which was typical of the presentation of gay characters in the media at the time. More famously, it was the first mainstream film which saw two male characters embrace in an affectionate kiss. Sunday Bloody Sunday was very well received critically, and was on various critics top 10 lists for the year. Many actors who turned down the lead role due to fear of what it might do to their career, later came to regret their decision.
6. The Kiss (Klimt)
Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt was one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement, and he is noted for his murals, sketches and paintings. One of his most famous works is ‘The Kiss’, which was painted between 1908 and 1909 (during his ‘Golden Period’). The masterpiece depicts a couple locked in focused intimacy whilst the rest of the picture dissolves into an extravagant flat pattern. The painting followed a series of works by Klimt which were deemed as pornographic and “perverted excess” which lead to him being branded as an enfant terrible. Regardless, ‘The Kiss’ was still well received and saw a buyer almost immediately. Currently the painting is on display at the museum in the Belvedere Palace, in Vienna.
5. Rodin’s Kiss
In 1889, French sculptor Auguste Rodin created a masterpiece out of marble which he went on to call ‘The Kiss’. The sculpture depicts a man and a woman locked in an embrace and about to kiss. It is believed to be a 13th-century Italian noblewoman immortalised in Dante’s Inferno who falls in love with her husband younger brother, Paolo. Having fallen in love while reading the story of Lancelot and Guinevere, the couple are discovered and killed by Francesca’s husband. In the sculpture, the book can actually be seen in Paolo’s hand. The lovers lips, however, do not actually touch in the sculpture, suggesting that they were interrupted and met their demise without their lips ever meeting. Talk about a misleading title.
4. Sleeping Beauty
One kiss that has plagued the bed time stories of children for generations is that of Sleeping Beauty and her prince. Originally written by the Brothers Grimm, the story tells of the daughter of a King who is cursed by a fairy to prick her finger on a spindle and die. Fortunately for the princess, she doesn’t die but falls into an eternal sleep only to be awoken by true loves kiss. True love takes the form of a prince who stumbles upon her secluded castle by chance and braves wild thorns and tall trees to find all of the castle’s occupants and the princess asleep. Struck by her immense beauty, he falls to one knee and kisses her to break the curse that lay on the kingdom. The story has continued to be told in different versions and in different languages, with Disney famously making an animated film in 1959.
3. Betrayal Kiss (Judas)
This kiss became the signal of betrayal and has been immortalised in several pieces of notable art. When Jesus and his supporters began to stir too much commotion for the church and the government, the High Priest Caiaphas paid Judas 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus. He was to lead the guards to Jesus and identify him with a kiss. Judas Iscariot did so in the Garden of Gethsemane and, as a result, Jesus was arrested, condemned to death and crucified. Christianity was born and Judas then went on to hang himself consumed by guilt.
2. Romeo & Juliet
A balcony situated in Verona, Italy, is the setting where Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare’s two star-crossed lovers, rendezvous under the stars. This iconic scene is one of Shakespeare’s most renowned. Taught in schools all over the globe, it’s almost impossible to find someone who has not heard the words “Romeo, Romeo wherefore art thou Romeo”. It is here that Romeo and Juliet have their first kiss, one that will spiral their lives out of control and ultimately end in their deaths. This kiss is the key event to the greatest love story ever told and has made Romeo and Juliet the symbolic figures of the perfect form of eternal love. Many people have travelled to Verona and wed upon the supposed balcony in which the story was set, hoping their love rubs off on them.
1. Victory-Over-Japan-Day Kiss
The world’s most famous kiss was captured on film in New York City, on V-J Day or Victory over Japan Day. This was the day Japan surrendered, effectively ending WWII. This kiss, amid the post-war daytime commotion of Times Square, has stolen the hearts of hopeless romantics around the world. Because of rapidly changing events during the celebrations ,the photographer did not have an opportunity to get the names and details of those involved and the photograph does not clearly show the faces of either person involved in this embrace, leading to several people claiming to be the subjects. The true story behind the featured kissers was revealed when the subjects were finally found. Navy quartermaster George Mendonsa and dental assistant Greta Zimmer weren’t involved in an act of romance but more of an impulsive celebration. Yet, that doesn’t seem to steal any thunder from this patriotic peck. The picture highlighted the complete contrast of the devastating, violent World War that had just ravaged the world and reminded us of happiness, joy and peace.