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Harold and Maude (1971) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • Young, rich, and obsessed with death, Harold finds himself changed forever when he meets lively septuagenarian Maude at a funeral.

  • Young adult Harold Chasen, solitary and friendless by choice, is obsessed with death, this fascination manifesting itself in he staging his own fake suicides, driving a hearse and attending funerals, even of people he doesn't know, all to the chagrin of his exasperated wealthy mother with who he lives. Mrs. Chasen is determined for Harold to be "normal", including she sending him into therapy to deal with his issues and finding him a girlfriend through a computer dating service. It is at a series of funerals that Harold meets Maude, on the cusp of her eightieth birthday, she who too attends funerals of strangers. Unlike Harold, Maude is obsessed with life - her own life to be more precise - she doing whatever she wants to please herself, damned what others may think or how they may be affected. Since she can't take material possessions with her, she is more interested in experiences, with whatever material possessions she has - often "borrowed" without asking - only to further those experiences. Their friendship is initially based on how the other can further their own priority. But as Maude shows Harold how to truly live, Harold falls in love with her. Their relationship, already limited in time by the sheer math, is curtailed even more as Maude shows him only not how to live well, but die well.

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  • Harold is a depressed, death-obsessed 20-year-old man/child who spends his free time attending funerals and pretending to commit suicide in front of his mother. At a funeral, Harold befriends Maude, a 79-year-old woman who has a zest for life. She and Harold spend much time together during which she exposes him to the wonders and possibilities of life. After rejecting his mother's three attempts to set him up with a potential wife, and committing fake suicide in front of all of them, Harold announces that he is to be married to Maude. However, Maude has a surprise for Harold that is to change his life forever.


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Synopsis

  • Harold Chasen is a nineteen-year-old boy obsessed with death so much so that he torments his mother (Vivian Pickles) with elaborately staged fake suicides.

    Harold meets Maude, 79 years old, at a funeral. The pair form a bond, with Maude slowly opening Harold to the sensual pleasures of music and art and the general anarchy of living for the moment and doing whatever one pleases. Their relationship turns sexual, despite Harold's mother's best attempts to get her son to settle down with someone she considers appropriate.

    Upon Maude's 80th birthday at a surprise party Harold has thrown for her Maude reveals that she has taken poison and will be dead by midnight. She restates her firm belief that 80 is the proper age to die.

    Harold has Maude rushed to the hospital, but it is too late. In the final sequence, it appears that a grief-stricken Harold drives his car (a Jaguar he had earlier transformed to look like a hearse) off a cliff. The final shot, however, reveals Harold with the banjo Maude gave him strapped around his shoulder upon the cliff. He walks away, picking out on his banjo the notes to Cat Stevens' "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out".

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