Sunday, February 18, 2018

45 Years

I came home from a work trip last night and needed to relax and found this film on Netflix.  I was aware of it when it came out.  While I can't recommend it per se, since I rarely if ever recommend films, it was thought provoking.  At least, I think, for older people.  I don't think younger people, say in their 20s, would understand it.

A retired couple is coming up to their 45th wedding anniversary. (They are in England but they could just as easily be North American.  Nothing screams UK other than driving on the "wrong" side of the road.)  They are childless (I think that is very important to the plot.)  However, the husband had a girlfriend before he met his wife named Katya.  She and the husband had been hiking in the Alps in the early '60s and she fell into a glacier and was lost.

At the beginning of the film, the Monday before their 45th anniversary party, he gets news that her body has been found because the glacier has been melting (due to climate change, of course).  This brings back his grief.  He hides in the attic to look at photos of their trip and her.  The wife gets increasingly upset about it, after trying to be compassionate for the first couple of days.  She finally goes and looks at the photos.

It appears to me that the girlfriend is pregnant, which while no one mentions in the reviews is very significant.  He lost his child as well. And why did the couple never have a child?  Did the wife not want one? 

Eventually, on Thursday night, she tells him that she doesn't want to talk about the old girlfriend any more, that she is enough for him whether he believes it or not and whether others think so.  The next morning he has "repented," brings her tea, has passed through his grief and is ready to be a good husband again.  They have their party, it's a success, he cries during his speech about his wife and marriage (as her friend predicted) and they dance.  But the very last moment of the film, she breaks away and looks angry, lost, unconvinced, something.

The acting is fine, but it's one of those films with lots of slow, long shots of people sitting at windows drinking coffee or walking their dogs across fields.  That is necessary, I think.  Roger Ebert always said that it was not what a movie is about but how it is about the subject.  That axiom is true here. 

My feeling is that the loss of the child is more significant than we are led to believe.  I told my husband about it and he said, "The past is the past."  I wish it were that simple.  The past just never is "the past" alone.  She's never going to forget these days and his grief for a girlfriend 5 decades ago.  And why should he?  Does grief for someone mean others don't matter?  No, of course not.  In the film the husband even wants to go to Switzerland to see the body and the place, but she tells him he won't be doing that. 

Is she controlling everything?  Do we ever really know the people we are married to, even that long?  No; we all have the right to hold something back from our spouses, although what is a matter of debate.  I have a life my husband does not enter into, and he has one I do not.  It doesn't involve love interests or sin; I just don't share all his interests, but that doesn't mean we can't share a life.

Like I said, I don't recommend movies, but this one was meaningful.

That said, because I have been privileged to have a husband and child, I find myself--and I'm not proud of this--passing judgment on those who have not.  I find flaws in their character.  Hah!  As if giving birth erases character flaws!  A woman who raised children can still be a narcissist, but under normal conditions I think raising children has to change one's worldview to being far less egocentric. 

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