Saturday, April 26, 2014

Film Review: 112 Weddings (2014)

112 Weddings

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink – an essay about the importance of snap judgments and ‘thin slicing’ – there is the story of John Gottman, a psychology professor who spent a large part of his career as a marital psychologist.  Gottman claimed that he could study a three-minute video of a married couple interacting in his lab and subsequently predict with high accuracy whether they would stay together or eventually divorce.  Apparently micro-expressions on couples faces and their attitude towards criticism and defensiveness etc. was enough to extrapolate a forecast.  This research came flooding back to me within minutes of watching a new documentary about married couples, ominously titled 112 Weddings. 

Alongside his filmmaking career, Doug Block has spent over twenty years filming weddings as a way of making money on the side.  Somewhere around the 100 mark he began to reflect on the nature and purpose of this ancient ritual, as well as wondering what happened to the couples that he had invested such time and energy into.  This led him to make contact with some of his favourite couples and to follow up on how their marriages were going, with both poignant and tragic results.

Although the couples are all from New York and have the money and the inclination to hire a wedding filmmaker, there is a sufficient diversity of characters to provide a fascinating insight into middle-class suburban married life.  The omnipresent IKEA furnishings and fridge magnets provide the backdrop for 10 different marriage narratives with differing degrees of comedy and tragedy.  Even though the couples are introduced with a graphic that resembles a spinning fruit machine that eventually settles on their corresponding number within Block’s chronology, this metaphor of transience does not reflect their mostly stable relationships.

112 Weddings

He manages to coax out stories from the willing and unwilling partners in sequences that John Gottman would have a field day analysing.  Some of the close ups contain emotional nuance that fiction directors could only dream of, leading to some genuinely tragic and tender insights.

Block asks each of the couples what expectations they had had about marriage, and then what the resultant years had really been like.  Amusingly, this leads to a near-universal condemnation of introducing children into the equation as well as number of disagreements over the functional purpose of arguing within a stable relationship.

The narration throughout the film (from Block) treads a fine line between childlike curiosity and secular bemusement, yet the sanest voice by far is a Rabbi friend of the filmmaker who delivers some brilliant lines about marriage:  The best being that a wedding day is easy “if you throw a ton of money & liquor at it…”


Even though the statistical unlikelihood of any marriages success (50%) is raised during the latter half of the film, ultimately the tone remains optimistic.  The result is a film to be enjoyed by newlyweds and monogamists everywhere – although perhaps one to be avoided for commitmentphobes and serial divorcees…

112 Weddings is released on 13 June in the UK
More information can be found at the official website.

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