"Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love" is about the beautiful, enduring love story between legendary folk singer Leonard Cohen and his Norwegian muse Marianne Ihlen. The story begins on 'The Greek island of Hydra' in 1960, where Leonard, then a struggling and unknown fiction writer, and Marianne, a single mother with a young son Axel, become part of a community of expat artists, writers and musicians. The film follows their relationship from the early days on 'Hydra', a humble time of free love and open marriage, to how their love evolved when Leonard becomes a successful musician. She's an enormous influence on him. Marianne and Leonard’s is a love story that would continue for the rest of their lives. Along the way we learn of the tragedy that befell those that could not survive the beauty of 'Hydra', the highs and lows of Leonard’s career, and the inspirational power that Marianne possessed. This are magical moments of life. Never-before-seen footage shot by legendary documentarian D.A. Pennebaker make for a unique portrait of an idyllic 1960’s bohemia.
Marianne had been visited the year before by D.A. Pennebaker, who had filmed her with her young son, and very much impressed her with the joys of documentary filmmaking. It's D.A. Pennebaker’s footage of Marianne, shot all those years ago, that's used in the film. D.A. Pennebaker, Marianne, and Leonard have remained the greatest of influences. It's on 'Hydra' in 1968 that director Nick Broomfield, then aged 20, first himself meet Marianne. Under 'The Greek' moon and stars she introduces him to Leonard Cohen’s music and encouraged Nick to make his first film. As she's with so many artists, Marianne is an enormous influence on Broomfield, who direct many documentaries about iconic music legends including Whitney Houston, Tupac Shakur, Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love. It's a time that left a lasting imprint on both Marianne and Leonard, whose friendship would last another fifty years. Marianne and Leonard went through many highs and lows. Bonded for life, even though drifting apart, they died three months apart in 2016.
This touching documentary illuminates tender aspects of the enduring love between the Canadian musician and his Norwegian muse, who
gained immortality through his songs 'So Long Marianne' and 'Bird On The Wire'. This Marianne is Norwegian Marianne Ihlen, his lifelong muse
with whom he started an intense relationship in a time of free love. Nick Broomfield, director of documentaries such as 'Whitney: Can I Be
Me', 'Biggie & Tupac' and 'Kurt & Courtney', follows their unconventional
relationship from the early days in idyllic Greece. Along the way we learn of the tragedy that befell those that could not survive the beauty of 'Hydra', the highs and lows of Leonard’s career, and the inspirational power that Marianne possessed. In later life when Marianne lay dying, Leonard himself old and sick wrote to Marianne. 'Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine, I've always loved you for your beauty and for your wisdom, but I don't need to say anything more about that. Endless love, see you down the road'.
Does love have to be conventional? "Marianne & Leonard" is a beautiful illustration of the twists and turns of a complicated relationship that has produced some of Cohen's most famous songs. Archive material and some recent interviews tell the story of the interrupted yet never ending love that began on the island of 'Hydra'. Cohen was mostly a writer at the time, the songs came later, when the melancholy poet evolved into a prominent musician. When Cohen became famous, and Ihlen became known as his muse, their relationship suffered and they lived apart more than they lived together. Still, their connection remained strong, even after Ihlen returned to Norway. A love story that defies conventional structure and slides back and forth in time within a rough chronology.