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Marianne & Leonard: Words Of Love

The love story behind some of Leonard Cohen's most beloved songs!

Nick Broomfield’s haunting documentary Marianne & Leonard: Words Of Love is a lovely illustration of the twists and turns of a complicated relationship. Leonard Cohen was a poet and novelist, and Marianne Ihlen was a young Norwegian mother with a rocky marriage, when they met in the early ’60s on the Greek isle of Hydra. He thought she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen; they fell in love and she became the muse who inspired songs like ‘So Long, Marianne’ and ‘Bird On The Wire’.

Poster for the Leonard Cohen documentary Marianne & Leonard: Words Of LoveThose songs didn’t come until later, when the serious, melancholy poet had morphed into a singer-songwriter with a gift for mysterious, vividly evocative language. 

Their relationship fractured and they lived apart more than together. But the bond between Leonard and Marianne remained deep and abiding, even after she moved back to Oslo and got married. Years later, as Marianne lay dying in a Norwegian hospital, Leonard sent her a moving letter in which he wrote, ‘Know that I am so close behind that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine…Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.’

Broomfield calls the film ‘my first love story’. But it is a love story that resists conventional structure, elusive and elliptical, slipping back and forth in time.

As much poetry as documentary, Marianne & Leonard is a gentle rhapsodic film, and a moving portrait of a love that resonates still.

– Steve Pond, The Wrap

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