English, Norwegian, w/ English subtitles
With: Marianne Ihlen, Leonard Cohen, Judy Collins, Helle Goldman, Richard Vick
Most of what we know of Marianne Ihlen, we learned through Leonard Cohen’s enigmatic “So Long, Marianne.” In his latest doc, Nick Broomfield (Whitney: Can I Be Me, Kurt & Courtney) examines the love affair between Ihlen and Cohen that began on the Greek island of Hydra in 1960.
Through never-before-seen archival foot- age and interviews with their friends and former colleagues, a portrait emerges of the woman behind the lyrics and the long-lasting influence she had on Cohen. Broomfield himself was inspired by Ihlen. After a brief romantic dalliance with Broomfield in 1968, she encouraged him to make his first film. They remained friends until her death in 2016, three months prior to Cohen’s death.
Much of Ihlen and Cohen’s story is made up of the time they spent apart, though Cohen continued to write to her after leaving Hydra to pursue his music career. “I was always escaping. I was always trying to get away,” Cohen expressed in an interview.
The interviews in Words of Love are a tell-all of Cohen’s concerts and conquests, revealing the women in his life to be the source of many of his songs. But Ihlen was his longest-lasting influence. Famously, he wrote to her not long before her death: “Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.”
Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love is a remarkable and rare portrait of a love that lasted a lifetime, from its intoxicating beginning to its poetic end. While the proof of it will live on in Cohen’s songs, this documentary captures the time, place, and circumstance that ignited the heart of a soulful singer-songwriter.