Love, designed

Passion – The kiss

12 September 2023
From the exhibition

Your first kiss. You never forget it. No matter how sweet, sloppy or bad it was. After that, there’s no stopping you: on average you’ll spend 20,000 minutes of your life kissing. That’s two whole weeks. All the same, kissing on the lips isn’t as universal as you might think.

Instinct or learned behaviour?
According to anthropologists, kissing is instinctive behaviour, because animals do it too. Bonobos, for instance, kiss one another to settle an argument. Other researchers believe that kissing evolved from the pre-chewing of food by early modern humans. Yet another theory states that the kiss originated in the Palaeolithic era: men did it to taste a woman’s saliva to determine whether or not she was a healthy partner for his offspring. It remains a mystery, especially since not all human cultures use kissing in a romantic way – only 46 percent of the world’s population enjoys a loving smooch!

First film kiss
The first film kiss was shot in 1896 by the director and cameraman William Heise in Thomas Edison’s studio. As cinema became immensely popular in the years that followed, the first objections to the screen kiss came too: movies and lust supposedly went together too well and would inevitably lead to other things. A kiss is just a kiss? Well no, it isn’t. Because everyone in the cinema knew what came next…

From rules to romcom
This was unacceptable and Hollywood set tight rules for the screen kiss in the 1930s. Not that this stopped moviemakers from testing the limits. Censorship was lifted in the 1960s. But the cliché of the screen kiss had, sadly, already lost much of its climactic magic by then. Especially when sex also began to appear on the silver screen in the 1970s. Only in the romcom did the kiss retain its key role.