Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love | Review

In his most personal doc yet, Nick Broomfield dives deep into the enigma behind Hallelujah and the woman who inspired So Long Marianne. Broomfield was a lover to Marianne Ihlen who built her love story with Leonard Cohen on the idyllic Greek island of Hydra. I challenge everybody to watch this documentary and not fall in love with the portrait Broomfield so beautifully paints. It is a quiet, intimate attempt to uncover the darkness in Cohen and what his art meant to him in the underbelly of the celebrity aesthetic.

Broomfield begins by painting the perfect picture of the romantic lifestyle. Falling in love in the summer sun, writing all day in a frenzy and exploring new places. On the surface Cohen's life is as idyllic as the island he lived on, until Broomfield gently peels back the fa├žade, letting Leonard's voice tell his story of addiction and depression. The admiration in everyone's eyes as they share their tales of the man, juxtaposed with Cohen's solemn eyes strumming somber melodies on stage is so incredibly powerful.

It's extraordinary what you discover about someone from those closest to them. Aviva Cantor, ex-wife to Irving Layton, a writer and good friend of Cohen expressed that "He lived in darkness" something many of his friends seemed to agree upon. No amount of gallivanting across the globe or beautiful women could fill the void that Marianne had left when she chose Hydra over Leonard. Cohen's own darkness is poured into the lyrics of his songs and poetry. He doesn't hide his urge to understand the human condition by gigging in asylums and inviting concert-goers back to his hotel. The curious nature of Cohen's psychology is what sustains 97 minutes. I didn't want it to end. I wanted to stay in the peaceful breeze of Hydra and learn more on Leonard; what inspired him and how he came to be so shadowed in sorrow.

It's harder to unravel the bad I'm sure there is in Cohen when an alternate side of the argument is hardly introduced. Marianne's world goes barely touched, a failure on Broomfield's part. It's understandable that this endeavour would perhaps lead to unwanted findings about his late lover but it leaves little explanation for some of her choices and fails to demystify her as more than just a muse. Her impact on those who paths' she crossed is so intriguing. She is spoken about with the same admiration and care as Cohen but I so deeply craved to see between the cracks of the woman adored by so many.

The closing lines walked with me out of the screening room;

I pray that loving memory
exists for them too
the precious ones I overthrew
for an education in the world

it's a section from Days of Kindness by Cohen. In one sentence he sums up what Broomfield endeavoured to explore. The battle between finding deep everlasting connections with people you love or finding your education in experiences that thrill for a moment is one we are all familiar with. It is one that haunted Cohen til the end.

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love hits UK Cinemas July 26th.

Until next time

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