FILMbutton Friday Review – 112 Weddings

by marion schreiber for FILMbutton

112 Wedding a film about marriage but not only that…

20 years ago, Doug Block had supported his career with a side business of videotaping weddings. One day, he watched his tapes again and wondered what became of the couples he videoed. At that point, Doug decided to contact a certain number of these couples to interview them about their marriage. This became a remarkable documentary called 112 Weddings. 112 Weddings is an intimate look at love, passing time and commitment.

After being married 5 to 19 years, all interviewed couples got a first question which was “How did you imagine your life as married?”. This question is harder to answer than you think. Quite often, if not unanimously, the answer was “I have no idea!”. After all this time, Doug Block wants to show that despite passing time we do not know what will be our future. Many couples say that they want to be married because of traditions, because it’s the way it is or because they want to prove their love but a lot of couples don’t ask themselves “Will I be happy in marriage?”. In all Doug Block’s wedding tapes we can see happy people in front of the camera. We see unique dynamic families with joy, pains, quarrels but all of this to reach only one conclusion given by Rabbi Jonathan Blake “[a] wedding is easy to make you happy but not marriage”.

1969 Halloween Bride

Weddings do not tell us what are lives will be like afterwards. Jenn & Augie (married 8 years) live with a lot of pressure. Because we are all committed to the person not only in a legal & financial but also an emotional way. Jenn & Augie’s story tell us that their journey to achieve a balance in their marriage was very hard because of many disappointments. Jen suffered but that was for her the price for happiness.

But does marriage automatically generate happiness? For few couples that Doug Block interviewed, it’s the contrary. For example, take Janet & David (married 7 years before divorcing) who were happy in marriage but David’s job destroyed their marriage. Actually due to societal changes, the work often comes before anything and this is the cause of many breakups including Janet & David. Marriage must be maintained, it demands a lot of compromises and efforts to do. Being together is essential but growing together on the same path is harder than it looks. That’s what we can notice in the interview with Olivia & Dennis (married 9 years). When we take a look at their wedding film, Olivia can’t stop crying, many emotions overwhelm her and she says: “I have to react as a mature adult” which can seem very disturbing.

Are weddings synonymous with maturity? Is it a passage? Well, 9 years later we can see Olivia & Dennis much more mature, due in no small part to their little daughter’s brain tumour. They tell us effectively about their fears, especially that, of the definite possibility of the loss of their daughter. They realize during their marriage that life is short and while there is no book which tells you how to properly educate your child the most important thing is to stay together, be positive and laugh as much as possible.

Olivia & Doug in Mirror

But as we can see if weddings causes divorces, quarrels and disappointments why marry? This is the big question that arises here in Doug Block’s film 112 Weddings. It shows that marriage will stay a mystery. As said by Rabbi Jonathan Blake, “marriage is not a perfect institution”. Commitment has many faces but it’s still a commitment, as Janice & Alexander whom celebrated a partnership ceremony (commitment based on spiritualism and the freedom of others) 13 years ago. So why celebrate our commitment with another person? Is this normality? As said by Dennis one of the married interviewees “I’m gonna devote my life to you that’s kind of insane!” Is it? In all cases under all these interviews we see that there is a strong link between all these couples whatever obstacles they encountered: work, children, depression, illness, adultery. They seem to regret nothing but maybe if they could go back in time…but that is not a reality and they are ready to figure out their future together or not.

112 Wedding is a movie where everybody can identify themselves, as a couple or not,or married or not. It’s a touching film that reveals many questions about marriage in general and the choices we make. It seems, that may be why Doug Block has dedicated this film to his wife.

Q&A with Doug Block at the Hot Docs Bloor Cinema on Friday, May 23rd, 2014:

Are you married and do you remember anything about your own marriage?

“Yes, well I guess I will answer the first question. I’ve been married 28 years and it definitly impacted my approach to the film. In fact ,at the beginning, I thought that it might be a good thing that it could be recorded by a biographer. And after a whole discussion with my editor, my producer and my conscious that was more interesting to let me helm the film. I think that there is something really interesting in this film.”

How would the film might be different if you were able to film couples who will be married for 40/50/60 years? How would your conclusions be different?

“I think it’s really an interesting time to go back to the range of the middle, 5 to 19 years and probably around more 5, 7, 8, 13 years of marriage because it’s where the marriage is most valuable. First of all, kids are the driving factor and people are still working it out. I think another interesting time period is when the kid leaves home, when they are facing an empty nest. And actually this is the driving force or the high lines of making the film because it’s a really hard time in the marriage. You know a higher percentage of marriages fall apart after that kids leave home. It makes sense, I mean they are focused on them for so long and suddenly it goes back to you and her it’s a weird adjustment”

David & Galina Laughing

Are you thinking about doing another 112 Wedding every 7 years?

“I think it would be more interesting to follow up with more couples. Come back to 8 or 9 couples and try to capture the best of them. I don’t know I need to save the right looking marriage. I don’t want to give some pre-conceived notion of some message about marriage. I mean I have my own idea about this kind of experience but it wasn’t a message film, it’s just the fact that I have this relationship with couples. I think it would be able for them to go back and have a kind of very candid conversation about their marriage in the way that I don’t know. But I don’t know how more I could say about going back. ”

Did you have some questions prepared for them before to shot this film?

“Of course, I had some questions prepared. You know there is certain things that I wanted to get in. Once I started to do the interviews I start to get a sense where the conversation is going. And I was actually surprised that was just questions about marriage. It’s an institution. It’s this idea, this really interesting idea: what does it change about the fact that you sign a contract? Because as I said in the film eventually, every issue that came up between the couples, or that they are living together for a period of time, that’s supposed to just be officially married and I just thought it was really interesting. It’s not directly linked to the film but as I read about marriage historically the idea of a love marriage is really recent. People married historically for economic reasons, you are married because it’s an asset, you are married for protection. I think we are still trying to figure it out. “

Carmen & Dilip Hailing Taxi

Were you surprised about the situation of some of the couples that you interviewed?

“Sure very very much surprised but the surprise was actually in a divorce because that’s the worse a couple expects. The divorce is really hard particularly to get through it. The other thing for a couple is to stay together. I did a film called “51 Birch Street” more of a focus on my parents marriage. A certain big surprise that emerged after my mothers death, suddenly and unexpected was when my father phoned to announce that he’s moving with his secretary to Florida. And you suddenly think that there is nothing to do. Break down of a marriage is a big shock for all of us. But who knows where marriage goes? But a big part of this film shows that we are not digging deeply to know what really goes into a marriage.”

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Marion Schreiber has a Master Degree in Cultural Management from University Aix Marseille III & a Master Degree in Communication and Events from La Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris. Her passions include film, travel and anything to do with the Arts.

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