MARIANNE & LEONARD is the in depth look of the stormy relationship between author/poet/singer/so writer Canadian Leonard Coen and his muse and love, Norwegian Marianne Ehlen. Those who love Cohen’s music will be pleased to note that the doc is interspersed with hissings include g the famous one, So, Long Marianne which he wrote for her.
Documentarian Nick Broomfield is an award winning filmmaker well known for his serial killer docs and his most famous THE LEADER, HIS DRIVER AND THE DRIVER’S WIFE. He is a filmmaker who knows how to capture the audience’s attention with his sect and he does the same with MARIANNE & LEONARD. The segment of how Leonard competed one concerti Jerusalem after shaving on acid illustrates this fact. another part was the partaking of ‘desert dust’ with a tip of a needle dipped in it not he tongue to get high for a full 23 hours.
The first third of he film shows Cohen’s early life during the hippie ‘flower people’ days. Marianne anthem experimented with LSD which serves as an inspiration for his work. It is amazing the amount of archive footage that is available and on display on film. It is a wonder why Cohen was not filmmaker himself.
Broomfield’s most entertaining interviewee is the wife of Cohen’s contemporary, Aviva Layton. Not only does she provide insight on Cohen’s genius, but she talks about other taboos like her husband perhaps having slept with Cohen’s mother. Cohen’s Jewish roots are also discussed as well as its influence brought into the picture.
Director Broomfield also brings out the human side of the artist with all his faults. Cohen went into depression mode after his novel “Beautiful Losers’ failed to sell. Leonard’s downfall was his depression which was quite bad at one point. As in the recent Ari Aster’s horror film MIDSOMMAR, MARIANNE & LEONARD is also a break-up film. Broomfield illustrated that as much a muse and lover to Leonard Marianne was, they were not meant to be with each other. Marianne had to make up her mind to break up. One of them was always angry and destructive. The film also looked at Marianne’s son, Axel from her first husband. There were quite a lot of casualties. Axel had to be institutionalized. Marianne had an abortion when pregnant with Leonard’s child. Another tragedy was the Johnsons, the family they stayed with at Hydra one of the Greek islands. The parents both died and the children also died one by one from suicide, drugs and drink with only one of them surviving. For all that is worth, tMarianne and Leonard’s relationship can be described as bittersweet while it lasted, with a last declaration of love t Marianne’s hospital death bedside.
The film also looks at the flower, hippie and acids culture. Despite the peace and love the culture was supposed to propagate. Just like the island of Hydra, people from there cannot function int he real world.
Broomfeld proves that there is much to be learnt from his doc on Leonard and Marianne providing an insight on life based on the experiences of failed humans. Other lessons from the film include the need to solve ones problems besides being in love. The film is shot in both English and Swedish.