45 Years review – a very stylish marriage | 45 Years | The Guardian
The superbly nuanced performances of Charlotte Ramplaling and Tom Courtenay and the exquisite direction of Andrew Haigh, who also co-wrote the film, turn a seemingly everyday story of a marriage in silent crisis into something quite extraordinary. A subtle examination of the persistence of the past and the fragile (in)stability of the present, this is a portrait of a rock-solid relationship facing a rift that cuts to its core in the run-up to the titular wedding anniversary.
the source material is david constantine’s enigmatic tale set in another country, in which an elderly married man receives a letter telling him that the body of his former girlfriend has been found, perfectly preserved in the ice of the alps where it fell 50 years ago. this news gets a cold reception from his wife, who is alarmed by the icy specter of an old love. “into the small room came an avalanche of ghosts”, constantino writes, the vision of “my katya”, who has not aged a day since her death, creating an icy fracture as tangible as the one in which the poor soul stumbled and all fell. those years ago.
From the kaleidoscopic fragments of this short story, haigh, who describes 45 years as a “companion piece” to the affectionate weekend of 2011, extracts a story of remarkable complexity, depth and darkness. While she accepts that she can hardly resent a relationship that happened before they met, vigilante Kate de Ramplaning struggles to make sense of her childless marriage in the new knowledge of this perfectly preserved interloper. As for the duped Geoff de Courtenay, the discovery of Katya’s body turns him into a man out of time (“she looks like her in 1962 and I look like this”), his spirit spirals back into a distant youth, his memories are clearer and more vivid. than his cloudy vision of the present.
The dialogue is naturalistic and the Norfolk Broads setting melancholic (its monotony is in contrast to Geoff’s earlier alpine adventures), but there’s a bit of steel underneath: a touch of Michael Haneke’s frost. The days are chapters like a police thriller and more than once I remembered the cache secrets and lies, Geoff sneaking into the attic in search of buried memories, Kate threatened by photographic slides that reveal the abysmal depths of her husband’s past. ironically, it’s the honesty with which geoff answers her wife’s questions (“would you have married her?”) that makes kate doubt him. meanwhile, diegetic musical choices tell a sinister story of their own; after describing how she suspected her alpine guide was flirting with her girlfriend, geoff leads kate through the living room to the tune of stagger lee, her themes of fighting and murder are not diminished by the upbeat treatment by lloyd price. (Happy turtles together and grumpy brooding now also provide romantic feedback.)
Amidst the suspicion there is also tenderness, a failed lovemaking party enacted with a frank and gentle quality that speaks volumes about the couple’s shared sexual past. these are characters whose story is alive in every look and gesture, haigh and cinematographer lol crawley (shooting on 35mm) prefer two long takes where either can enter or leave the frame, allowing the performances breathe in raw shots. There’s no room to hide, and Courtenay and Ramping are on top of their game at all times, drawing us into their hopes and fears even as we watch them from a distance. Ramping in particular is a symphony of physical screams and whispers, her worried eyes and forced smiles choreographed with breathtaking precision, her face falling as slowly as the melting ice that Geoff becomes so obsessed with.
Like the final shot of the long Good Friday, which lingers on Bob Hoskins’ face as he revisits the events that led up to this unfortunate moment, 45 Years shows us the past materializing in the expressions of those trapped in the present. , staring into an uncertain future. while geoff and kate dance to the rhythm of the mourners, the smoke enters your eyes, we see their story uncovered, well-rehearsed movements that become unknown, hugs separated by distance, physical and temporal. viewers will decide for themselves what the film’s parting shot means (another Hanekean trope), but I suspect most will agree with the haunting quality of this deceptively simple and richly disorienting gaze into the abyss.