Posted by Larry Gleeson
Marianne & Leonard – Words of Love, the latest work from Brit documentary filmmaker, Nick Broomfield, is a beautiful yet tragic love story between Leonard Cohen and his Norwegian muse Marianne Ihlen. Broomfield delivers a well-organized and polished film with traditional documentary filmmaking techniques of utilizing voice-over-narration, still photographs with effects, archival footage and present day interviews. Furthermore, Broomfield manages to interview very interesting characters to say the least, all of whom sing the praises of Marianne and share some insightful observations on the semi-reclusive Cohen, most often associated with his best-selling work, Hallelujah that contains most of Cohen’s common themes of religion, politics, isolation, sexuality and romantic relationships. What emerges from Broomfield’s efforts is a well-researched and documented look into the deeply persoanal and spiritual relationship of Leonard Cohen and Marianne Ihlen.
Interestingly, Broomfield’s work Tales of the Grim Sleeper (2014), introduced film goers to the Black Lives Matter Movement before it became a national movement. Broomfield was also the last person to speak to Ailenne Wuornos as he was making his Ailenne: The Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003), the central character in Monster. Charlize Theron portrayed Wuornos and received an Oscar for her performance. Other prominent and well-known works from Broomfield include Sarah Palin: You Betcha! (2011), Battle for Haditha (2007), Kurt and Courtney (1998) Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam (1995) and Soldier Girls (1981).
Broomfield begins Marianne & Leonard – Words of Love to when and where the love of Leonard Cohen and Marianne Islen began – on the idyllic Greek island of Hydra in 1960 as part of a bohemian community of foreign artists, writers and musicians. The film follows their relationship from the early days on Hydra, a humble time of ‘free love’ and open marriage, to how their love evolved when Leonard became a successful musician. It was on Hydra in 1968 that director Nick Broomfield, then aged 20, first met Marianne Ihlen. Marianne introduced him to Leonard Cohen’s music and also encouraged Nick to make his first film and was an enormous influence on him.
Marianne and Leonard’s was a love story that would continue for the rest of their lives. Along the way, Broomfield brings to light the tragedy that befell those that could not survive the beauty of Hydra, the highs and lows of Cohen’s career, and the inspirational power that Marianne possessed. Marianne and Leonard died three months apart.
With Marianne & Leonard, Broomfield continues his already strong body of work with a more personal touch.
In the Q & A following the film’s screening, Broomfield credits Marianne’s nurturing soul and gentle encouragement as the catalyst behind his advent into documentary filmmaking. Seemingly, Leonard and Marianne touched something deeply personal inside Broomfield. Following the Q & A I personally thanked Mr. Broomfield for his work and quickly inquired what his next project would be. Broomfield cooly replied he was doing something even more personal – a project about his father. Stay tuned as Broomfield is at the top of his game and I personally look forward to seeing more from this highly original and very authentic filmmaker. Warmly recommended.