THE MARRIAGE IS A SOCIALLY SIGNIFICANT PIECE WITH AN UNFOCUSED STRUCTURE
By Christopher Henry
There are undoubtedly numerous landscapes, themes, and backdrops that are rarely explored by today’s filmmakers. The subjects of human rights and LGBT representation in other parts of the world are such examples. Award-winning Kosovar director, Blerta Zeqiri, bravely and compassionately seeks to shine a light on such topics in her romantic drama, The Marriage.
The movie is set approximately ten years after the Kosovo War. Bekim (Alban Ukaj) and Anita (Adriana Matoshi) are a young engaged couple living in Pristina, Kosovo’s capital. Anita is waiting to see if the remains of her parents, who went missing during the war, have been found. Their life takes an unexpected turn when Bekim’s old friend, Nol (Genc Salihu), returns from studying and pursuing a musical career in Paris. It is revealed that Nol and Bekim were lovers in their youth and, in fact, still harbor feelings for each other presently. We are taken on a journey that leads us to Bekim and Anita’s wedding and the question of “Will they, Won’t They” utilizing the politics and attitudes of Kosovo as a clever backdrop.
While this is a film that is daring in its attempt to tackle such a taboo subject, the problem is that the structure of the film seems unfocused. The film feels less like one cohesive narrative and instead feels like two or more short films strung together. The point of view shifts without warning from Anita to Bekim in such a way that by the conclusion of the film Anita and her entire arc are merely a footnote in the story. There is no resolution to the subject of her parent’s remains other than the fact that we learn that Bekim’s controlling mother is withholding the information from her, citing the wedding and her state of mind as reasons. The film misses the opportunity to fully explore what would happen were she to find out the truth and how it would affect her. Zeqiri’s admirable and empathetic attempt to portray the turmoil faced by the characters of Bekim and Nol, unfortunately, relegate Anita to the background of a film that spends the first 45 minutes investing in her character. By the end of the film, several elements that were introduced to the film have been either undercut or forgotten completely and the viewer is left with more questions than answers. Some of the flashbacks are utilized effectively in providing character insight, while others are jarring and take you completely out of the story trying to figure out exactly where you are and why.
There are some positive elements to this film. The chemistry between the main characters is excellent and the tension is played out beautifully in the two scenes where all three are reminiscing in the bar. The love-making scene between Nol and Bekim is shot tastefully and conveys a realism and passion that is not often seen in gay male sex scenes. Furthermore, the film is shot using a hand-held camera, utilizing close-ups and a vibrant color palette to convey the tone of each scene. The subject matter of this film will definitely impact most viewers and perhaps inspire some to delve deeper into the themes it begins to explore. However, therein lies the problem. It starts to boldly explore these themes, especially in the scene where Bekim displays his own homophobia by refusing to host an LGBT fundraiser at the bar he owns. However, we only see these themes explored in one scene, and they are only mildly hinted at in the remainder of the film.
The Marriage is a film that ought to be commended for what it set out to do. However, in its attempt to create a specific narrative and deliver a specific message, the structure of the story suffers greatly as a result. It is saved by the performances of its leading actors, the cinematography, and a couple of poignant scenes, but will unfortunately still leave many viewers either confused or dissatisfied by the conclusion. I would give it an overall score of C. There is a solid, cohesive and moving film that could have emerged from this one had there been 25 minutes of additional runtime and some rewrites applied to the second half of the film, geared specifically towards character development and a consistent through line from the film’s beginning to its conclusion.
To watch the trailer, please click HERE
For more information about the film, please visit www.themarriagefilm.com