Nick Broomfield’s documentary, Marianne and Leonard: Words Of Love, explores the famous love story between singer and writer Leonard Cohen and his love interest Marianne Ihlen. She was the inspiration behind many of his hit songs like “Bird On The Wire,” “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” and “So Long, Marianne.”
With beautiful beaches and golden sunshine in the background, Broomfield explores how their relationship blossomed and the emotional toll it took on both of them. Nick, who knew Marianne intimately, and was in a relationship with her in later years, sheds light on his relationship with the lady and his understanding of the couple.
1. Quick Review
The affair between Leonard and Marianne is the kind of story that happens once in a generation. While the documentary was meant to highlight Marianne’s impact on Cohen’s career, it starts to feel like a movie documenting his music concerts and tours. Cohen went on to have multiple affairs while terming Ihlen his muse and most valued treasure.
Marianne’s side of the story and the emotional toll the relationship took on her is not brought to the front. Pieced together with recorded audio and clips, one can see that she was hounded throughout her life by reporters and wanted to live a peaceful life.
2. Info & Watch Links
Marianne and Leonard: Words Of LoveAir Date: January 27, 2019 Status: Airing Studio: Roadside Attractions
3. Is It Worth Watching?
Nick Broomfield’s intricate documentary showcases the multiple relationships between the people on screen. It also highlights the anti-establishment culture prevalent in the 1960s and using the beautiful background of the island, tells a story of love and manipulation.
Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love captures the mysterious love story of the poet turned singer Leonard Cohen with the Norwegian women he met on the Greek island Hydra. In the early 60s, Cohen, who was mildly famous for his notorious book Beautiful Losers, found himself on Hydra, looking for a place to write and hoping for inspiration to strike.
Marianne lived there with her husband, writer Axel Jensen and their 8-year old son. The relationship between Cohen and Marianne was passionate and intimate and quickly turned serious. The documentary examines how it inspired Cohen to write songs and shift professions.
He wrote his famous hit, Bird on the Wire, after Marianne suggested that birds sitting on electric wires resembled musical notes. Leonard termed her his muse, and when he left the island and went on tour, he forgot about the woman but made the legend of the muse a part of his persona.
Nick Broomfield makes an appearance on-screen, as is the case with his documentaries. He explores the relationship intimately and with great care. Broomfield and Ihlen also had an affair during one of her prolonged breaks from Cohen. He comments on his relationship while mentioning how the story of their love intoxicated him.
Leonard Cohen speaks candidly about how he started spending less time with Marianne as his career took off. While earlier he used to stay on the island for months, as fame overtook him, he reduced the visits to two weeks. For him, the relationship wasn’t something he was fully invested in, and he had multiple affairs on his tours.
The documentary questions whether Cohen was in love with Marianne, or with the myth of the muse, which helped give his songs and popularity a boost.
Marianne doesn’t get enough time to express her emotions at the beginning of their relationship. When Broomfield catches up with her, Cohen is out of the picture, but she still speaks fondly and with pain in her voice. Her individuality doesn’t isn’t highlighted, and he lives in the shadow of the singer, making this feel like a documentary about Cohen’s career.
III. The Setting
Marianne and Leonard’s unique aspect is its representation of the artist community and the anti-establishment culture prevalent in those years. The best parts of the pair’s relationship and the best moments of the documentary are on the Greek island of Hydra.
Cohen recalls his time on the island fondly. He remembers writing his novels while Marianne brought him food, walking on the beach with her, and the conversations they had, which ended up inspiring his songs. Hydra was a haven for people looking to relax somewhere where society’s rules and norms didn’t apply.
The people remember the drunken and drug-filled parties, broken families, and failed relationships, which were a part of the Hydra lifestyle.
5. Final Thoughts
Marianne and Leonard Words Of Love starts with an exciting premise but forgets that two people build a love story. By not giving Marianne enough time in the spotlight, the documentary feels like something shot for a Leonard Cohen Tour. Thus, the movie starts to go in the direction of propagating the artist’s sexist trope and the muse, making it harder to justify that it is a balanced representation of an intimate love story.Originally Written By Epic Dope