English Title: Memories of a Marriage
Original Title: Dansen med Regitze
Director: Kaspar Rostrup
Cinematography: Claus Loof
Anne Werner Thomsen
Hans Henrik Clemensen
This under-seen Oscar BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE PICTURE nominee from Denmark is an adaptation from a popular Danish novel written by Martha Christensen, tells the story of an elderly couple Karl Aage (played by real-life father-and-son Frits and Mikael Helmuth in different time-lines) and Regitze (Nørby and Bendsen), who are organising a garden party in their countryside house to host their friends and families, interposed with flashbacks of their past from Karl’s angle, and a hidden secret only reveals near the end.
Regitze is a spitfire, a woman full of vim and vigour, whilst Karl is a more introvert and self-effacing sort, a wallflower standing beside his more gregarious jokester friend Borge (also played by real-life father-and-son pair Henning and Michael Moritzen). Rarely in his life, Karl makes the first move to invite Regitze for a dance in their very first encounter, which kindles their romance and launches a marriage will last until now. Jumping back and forth frequently between past and present, director Kaspar Rostrup utilises brusque editing to reflect Karl’s fitful memories of their past episodes – at firstly it may prompt some bewilderment, but soon viewers can find the pattern – about how they fall in love, being rebellious to Regitze’s orthodox mother (Rolffes), raise their only son John until he is old enough to let them taste their medicine, help out their friend Gloria (Zinn) when she is afflicted with domestic violence and face inescapable career debacles in difficult times.
Substantially, it is an ode to an ordinary life of two ordinary persons, of course they squabble and ruffle each other’s feathers from time to time, but more significantly they also coordinate their dissimilarities, respect and encourage each other over the long-haul of a marriage. And Rostrup never opt to sensationalise their experiences to manipulate audience’s reactions, instead, he largely relies on the emotive performances to lay out a heterogeneous mixture of humour, laughter and confrontation in a down-to-earth narrative, with the aid of its swooning soundtrack.
The two pairs play Karl and Regitze are wonderful to watch, as a national treasure, the prolific Ghita Nørby powerfully stands for a force of all emotions, which can be ignited at any moment while as the young Regitze, Bendsen sparks with a distant likeness of a young Liv Ullmann; a great casting choice to bring Frits and Mikael Helmuth to play the same person, their facial resemblances does offset the inconvenient fact that in only about 10 years, we have to accept Karl’s physical switch from Mikael to his father Frits, it is always the same risk for casting with a vast age range, Mikael is at best with his wide-eyed unsophisticatedness and the veteran Frits, brings about his prowess out of reticence and obstinacy.
Fairly speaking, MEMORIES OF A MARRIAGE is skilful in its lyrical style, admirable in its unassuming stance and owes one to its competent cast, yet at the same time, a twist in the coda may be unnecessarily staged since the picture has already comprehended quite a lot marriage philosophy within its 90-minute length, there is no need to bookend it with a strike of bathos (despite the fact that it is well-anticipated), or perhaps, it could be introduced earlier to fine-tune the mood to a more somber frequency and evoke some pathos for our protagonists, either way, it may help to ameliorate itself to be a more worthy Oscar-nominee in its category.