Harold and Maude

From Academic Kids

Harold and Maude is a 1971 movie, directed by Hal Ashby. The film features both dark and light humor, social satire (including anti-war), promotes the notion of living life to its fullest, and has long had a cult following. The film is number 45 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 Funniest Movies and in 1997, it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.

The film was a commercial failure when it was released and critics were divided.

The screenplay on which the film was based was written by Colin Higgins, and published as a novel in 1984.



The film first introduces us to Harold, an alienated teenaged boy from a wealthy family who lives in a large mansion with his dominating mother. Harold stages realistic mock-suicides. This has evidently been going on for so long that his mother takes no notice, other than when Harold causes a particular mess with his fake blood. For amusement, Harold attends funerals of people he doesn't know. At these he repeatedly sees Maude, a 79 year-old woman who befriends him. Maude is very much his opposite: a senior citizen, energetic, impulsive, and light-hearted. The two form an unlikely friendship, then romance.


Hal Ashby, the director of the film, was part of the San Francisco youth culture, and his film posits the doomed youth of the alienated against the vital age of the Holocaust survivors. While Harold is part of a society where he can have no importance and no meaning, Maude has survived against totalitarianism. Against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, Harold can only feel significant by dying. Maude, on the other hand, is a fictionalizer and a dreamer. She sees beauty where others see none, believes in the innate goodness of people (but not the State), and practices what she calls her own individual revolution. Her backstory is only hinted in the film. She tells Harold at one point about Alfred Dreyfus seeing fantastic birds on Devil's Island and finding out later that they were only seagulls. She says that to her they would always be fantastic birds.




The soundtrack is by Cat Stevens, and includes two songs which he composed specifically for the movie and which were unavailable for several decades on vinyl or cassette (they were later released on the compact disc Footsteps in the Dark).

External links

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