Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB
Original Title: A feleségem története
Hungary/Germany/France/Italy, 2021. Arte France Cinema, Dorje Film, Inforg-M&M Film Kft., Komplizen Film, Maximus Distribution, Moliwood Films srl, Paloalto Films, Pyramide Productions, Rai Cinema, WDR / Arte. Screenplay by Ildikó Enyedi, based on the novel by Milán Füst. Cinematography by Marcell Rév. Produced by Maren Ade, Jonas Dornbach, Peggy Hall, Janine Jackowski, Ernö Mesterházy, András Muhi, Mónika Mécs, Pilar Saavedra Perrotta, Flaminio Zadra. Music by Adam Balazs. Production Design by Imola Láng. Costume Design by Andrea Flesch. Film Editing by Károly Szalai.
Gijs Naber plays a ship captain who is feeling physical pains that he is told are a common ailment for unmarried sailors, and that matrimony is the only cure. Determined to improve his health, he goes to Paris and while discussing the matter with a friend at a fashionable café, announces that he will marry the first woman he meets. That woman turns out to be Léa Seydoux, who appreciates the humour of Naber’s odd proposition and takes him up on the dare, agreeing to marry him and moving into their elegant apartment that he leaves for months at a time, returning with gifts after every voyage. At first he insists that he understands if she sates her loneliness with other men while he is away, they’re not a conventional couple after all, but when he suspects that she and Louis Garrel are more than just friends, he finds himself overtaken with a jealousy that she insists is unjustified. The now troubled couple walk back and forth through this conflict and whatever connection they successfully made at the beginning starts to fray as their arguments go from fiery to quietly miserable with his refusal to let go of his cruel suspicions. Ildiko Enyedi adapts Milan Fust’s 1942 novel with all the plush beauty that a period film should have, there’s a lot of money spent on sets and costumes that shows up vibrantly on screen, highlighted by two glamorous stars who do their best with their only middling chemistry. What really works against them, though, is a dull script that features very little juicy drama worth savouring, after a spirited and measured beginning the film devolves into endless scenes of uninspired dialogue and a plot that wanders in search of a pulse. Enyedi illogically tries to present this tale as an argument against toxic masculinity, which the story’s ending doesn’t support and only makes the ridiculous 170-minute running time that much more baffling.
Cannes Film Festival: In Competition