“Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love” is renowned filmmaker Nick Broomfield’s most personal and romantic film of his storied career.
The documentary starts on the Greek island of Hydra in 1960, where Leonard Cohen, then a struggling and unknown fiction writer, and Marianne Ihlen, a Norweigan divorcee with a young son, became part of a community of free-love expat artists and intellectuals.
Never-before-seen footage shot by Broomfield and renowned documentarian D.A. Pennebaker make for a unique portrait of an idyllic 1960’s bohemia. The experience left a lasting imprint on Ihlen and Cohen, whose love affair on Hydra turned into an on-and-off friendship that would last another 50 years before they died in 2016.
Broomfield knew both Ihlen and Cohen. He spent time on Hydra and was briefly a lover of Ihlen himself. But the director’s film features himself as an extraneous character while focusing on Cohen and Ihlen.
The movie consists of vast archival material — including footage shot on Hydra, which in the 1960s became an Eden for free-spirited creatives enamored with its beaches, inexpensive living and vast “mind-expanding” drugs.
As Cohen became more entrenched in stardom, he saw Ihlen and her son, Axel, less frequently. His song “So Long, Marianne,” serves as his goodbye to her — coupled with thanks, wistfulness and inevitability.
But the story does not end there, and “Marianne & Leonard” suggests that these were two immensely intelligent and talented people who never found happiness. The total love each of them sought over the decades may have been right there all along.
Or at least it was there, in decades past, on Hydra.
See the trailer
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