Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling in a scene from the movie 45 Years.
Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling in a scene from the movie 45 Years. Photo Contributed

Melancholy of marriage revealed in film 45 years

DIRECTOR Andrew Haigh embraces melancholy in his latest film 45 Years.

The acclaimed film, which scooped Best Actor and Best Actress on its debut at the Berlin International Film Festival, is an intimate portrait of a marriage shaken to its core by things left unspoken.

The drama follows Geoff (Tom Courtenay) and Kate (Charlotte Rampling) as unexpected news threatens the preparation of their 45th wedding anniversary party.

One week before the celebration a letter arrives for Geoff containing news that the body of his first love has been discovered in the icy glaciers of the Swiss Alps.

Kate continues to prepare for the party, but she becomes increasingly concerned by Geoff's preoccupation with the letter and the startling revelations about his former life.

The film shatters the idyllic picture many of us have of the assumed bliss that comes from a long marriage.

"I'm all for melancholy; it's the British way," Haigh tells Weekend.

"I've been spending a lot of time in America, where melancholy has a negative connotation. In Britain we understand the nature of melancholy. It has a kind of sweet sadness about it, almost like you're sad about the possibility of something or what could have been and hasn't been.

"It's very much part of the British psyche, but it's very different than misery."

Kate is the driver of the film, which is told from her perspective rather than her husband's, as in the short story Haigh adapted into a feature film.

Rampling is nominated for an Oscar for her nuanced performance as Kate, whose life, as Haigh puts it, has been thrown into "quiet chaos".

"Someone staring out a window doesn't mean anything without something going on in their head, and Charlotte's good at drawing the camera closer and into her," he says.

"Even if you can't fully articulate what she's feeling, she's definitely feeling things.

"Kate's afraid if she vocalises how she feels, if she talks to her friends about it, that she doesn't know what's going to happen. She's afraid of releasing it into the world and she tries hard to forget about it and move on."

Haigh likens the effect of Geoff's former lover on their relationship to a ghost story.

"I saw it like a haunting by a woman who's long dead. She's not a threat but she still seems to be there affecting both of them," he says.

"It's like a thriller but in a very minor key. She's trying to piece together the pieces very gently and he's revealing things and not revealing things."

The film's success has taken Haigh's career to the next level. Recently wrapping up his work on HBO's TV series Looking, he plans to shoot his next film in Portland.

45 Years opens at limited cinemas on Thursday, with a wider release on March 10.


Stars: Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, Geraldine James, Dolly Wells.

Director: Andrew Haigh

Rating: M

Reviewer's last word: This slowly paced, understated and very British film is an interesting story about the effects of things left unsaid and features nuanced performances from its two stars.


Quirky fact: The British rock band Kinky Machine wrote a song about her, simply called Charlotte Rampling. It includes the line "I always wanted to be your trampoline."

Best known for: Broadchurch, The Eye of the Storm, Swimming Pool.

If you like this movie you'll like these: Carol, Trumbo, Brooklyn, Youth.

Quote: "I think you have to earn beauty. You can use it or abuse it however you want when you're young. It's a God-given gift … have fun, but don't be obsessed with it."

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