You can fall in love with anyone in 4 minutes – here’s the living proof

Ash paintig by Markus Keibel represented by Anna Jill Lüpertz Gallery

It was 1995 when singer-songwriters Nick Cave and PJ Harvey met to film the video for best selling single, Henry Lee. Their encounter was brief and they mutually admitted to love at first sight before shooting.

20 years later, journalist Mandy Len Catron made it viral in The New York Times with her Fall in love with me in 4 minutes experiment based on this study. The experiment claims that 2 strangers who ask each other a series of 36 compelling questions, ranging from family backgrounds, sexual preferences, childhood traumas, or favourite TV shows to name a few, and then stare into each other’s eyes for exactly 4 minutes, can fall in love instantly.

The questions Catron and her friend tried on each other are divided into three sets and cover most things we are uneasy to talk about normally (even to ourselves):

Set I

  1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
  2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
  3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
  4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
  5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
  6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
  7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?

Harvey and Cave may have had love at first sight – which Catron says is a thing of choice, not fate – or may have experienced the consequences of a strange psychological resort. Either way, this is still one of the most eerie and romantic encounters of the 1990’s art scene and, frankly, who wouldn’t fall in love when painstakingly repeating “You won’t find a girl in this damn world / That will compare with me”.

  1. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
  2. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
  3. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
  4. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
  5. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

The fascination Cave and Harvey had for each other while filming is hard to explain. Knowing they barely knew each other when they met makes the whole viewing experience surreal, dramatic, and spellbinding. Henry Lee was made in one take. There was no script, no choreography. Thus, they clicked beyond reason in those 4 minutes. This magnetic attraction set them in a whimsical bubble outside space and time where holding each other’s gaze was preliminary to a feisty, overflowing connection. Its intensity was brutal, yet its core gentle, and all those stripped feelings form a raw, unguarded heart ease in spite of the song’s being about murder and betrayal.

Set II

  1. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
  2. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
  3. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
  4. What do you value most in a friendship?
  5. What is your most treasured memory?
  6. What is your most terrible memory?
  7. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
  8. What does friendship mean to you?
  9. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
  10. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
  11. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
  12. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?

“So you were starting the relationship in this four-minute video,” The Guardian asked Cave.

Yeah, exactly” he replied.


  1. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling … “
  2. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share … “
  3. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
  4. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.
  5. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
  6. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
  7. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
  8. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
  9. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?
  10. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?
  11. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
  12. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.


People who fall in love, – aware or not of this exercise – Catron states, will do it out of choice and will separate out of reason if they do. Cave and Harvey spent less than one year together – a consuming  affair that led to its own demise. While Cave frantically wrote doomed love ballads about brunettes with dark green eyes and West County temptresses, Harvey sank like a fish inside a tank to produce “Is this desire,” an end note about mismatched affairs and ghostly romances. Their 4 minutes of on-screen fame, however, took a dramatic turn for their music. While Harvey produced her most acclaimed album, Cave’s Into My Arms was called the greatest love song ever written.

Ioana Cristina Casapu likes Brian Eno, airports and never says no to a good old Gin&Tonic. 

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