Saturday, 18 July 2015

Getting Hitched to Reality of Marriage

The documentary looks at what happens to couples after they get married...
When people get married, do they really know what they are getting themselves into? Do they know what challenges they will face and how they will deal with them? With 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce, why do people still tie the knot?

Those are the kinds of questions New York-based documentary filmmaker Doug Block asks in his film 112 Weddings.

I had read about the documentary in a newspaper article almost a year ago and was curious to actually see it. And on the flight back to Hong Kong I had that opportunity.

Documentary filmmaker Doug Block
Block is an award-winning documentary filmmaker (The Kids Grow Up, 51 Birch Street, The Heck with Hollywood!), who funds his passion by being a wedding videographer.

He started doing it over 20 years ago and in that period has shot 112 weddings. He narrates the documentary by saying, "I found it unexpectedly thrilling to be a wedding videographer. We're always struggling to gain access to our subjects, and here I was being granted a front-row position as an ordinary couple experience perhaps the most extraordinary day in their lives (and being paid well for it, no less!).

When his 25th wedding anniversary came around, it prompted Block to go and find the same couples again to see how marriage had affected them, if it was what they thought it would be, and how they fared.

He tried to track down some of his favourite couples; a few may have moved away and he lost contact with him, while others had divorced and didn't want to talk on camera.

In the film each interview starts with footage from the wedding, and then the couple is interviewed. Even though they are trying to present the best side of themselves, their body language and the words they choose are more telling.

Wedding #71, Block says, Jenn and Augie's was one of the most joyful he had ever witnessed. After eight years, they were still in love with each other with one child, but financially things were tight and admitted they were fighting more than when they had gotten married.

Augie said that after a fight one would want space, but in reality they are in this together because of the child and so they have to work hard to make things work. "My wife and I agree 95 percent of the time. But that 5 percent, we're just at each other's throats."

Olivia and Dennis were Wedding #49, with Olivia wearing a kind of pearl-encrusted crown that made her look like a medieval princess walking down the aisle. After they got married, the couple moved to Tulum, Mexico for her to be a massage therapist, and him a scuba diving instructor.

When their daughter Lily was born, they moved back to New York, but when she turned three, Lily was diagnosed with a brain tumour which threw their lives into turmoil.

The two parents completely focused on their child, with the constant fear of losing her at anytime, which put their lives into perspective as well. They needed each other to help Lily get better, and as they are interviewed, Block pans up above the casual white shirted-couple on the couch to reveal an elaborate gold-framed portrait of their daughter, who looks sad.

Dennis says, "There is no real book on how to take care of a child who maybe taken from you at any moment, and dealing with that fear. You're thrown into a living nightmare that never ends."

However, Block reports on his website that Lily is now 10 and her parents say is "kicking ass".

Tom and Yoonhee looking back on their wedding day
There was one mixed-race couple in the documentary, Yoonhee and Tom, Wedding #43. They met on a plane and Tom wouldn't give up pursuing her, even though she was supposed to finish her masters degree in music, and her father back in Korea had already arranged a teaching job for her there.

But she fell in love with Tom and decided to give up her career for him, much to the chagrin of her father, who at first refused to come to the wedding, but did come in the end. Yoonhee and Tom now have two children.

Block asks them if he thinks it was fate for them to meet on the plane. While Tom immediately dismisses the possibility, Yeehoon, who seems very bubbly and optimistic, looks out into space and says, "Life can be funny. Life can be very funny because, I mean, why did it happen, you know?"

Alexander and Janice just after finishing their own vows
Another loving couple was Janice and Alexander, Wedding #111. Both their parents were very displeased to find out the couple did not want to have a "wedding", as it involved ownership, right of lineage, and possession, values they did not believe in; instead they had a three-day "partnership ceremony", and Block shows a scene of them right afterwards, so excited, and Alexander saying, "We did it! We did it!"

Thirteen years later they still seem happily together, with two daughters, and the older one keenly aware that though they are her parents, they are not legally married.

When Block contacted them, though, Janice and Alexander decided it was time to really get married, and was lucky enough to record their very small ceremony in their living room, which was just as emotional, if not more, with their children as witnesses.

The documentary managed to dissect a few marriages that had gone sour. Janet and David, (Wedding #83) had beautiful wedding, but seemed strange for the groom to reveal how many meds he was taking -- was this to calm his nerves or was he always like this?

After seven years and a child later, the marriage was over, and David, with disheveled hair, sitting in a small apartment is honest about what happened. He was a struggling screenwriter and didn't get too far, while it seemed Janet wanted her husband to grow up and take responsibility of looking after the family.

Block wasn't able to get Janet's side of the story, but David is not malicious at all, taking complete blame for the end of the marriage and admires her for being with him throughout that time.

However the same could not be said of Sue and Steve, Wedding #1. When Block contacted Sue about doing the documentary, she said she had just filed for divorce the day before. She had recently found out her husband had been cheating on her and had another woman, which was a complete shock to her.

The filmmaker was able to get Steve's side of the story, where he says the marriage became lifeless, particularly when three children were in the picture, and things were very routine.

In the end there is a scene with Sue looking back at her wedding photos. She says she can look at them because it's a different person in the picture.

One sad couple was Danielle and Adam, Wedding #90. Block remembers Danielle as a radiant bride, but when he met them again five years later, she was severely depressed, something she had before, but the sadness was magnified after taking hormone pills to get pregnant.

With the two of them together, she looked despondent and very pessimistic, saying how she could not contribute as much as she wanted to the family because she was tired all the time.

But her husband was so stoic and even said on camera: "I personally feel like you're completely worth waiting for, for this to fix itself one day. And even if that's never, I still think that I wouldn't want to do this with anyone else, you know?"

Wedding #112: Heather and Sam after their ceremony
To add more depth to 112 Weddings, Block also interviewed a lesbian couple who were also wedding photographers. Anna and Erica have been together for four years and are keen to get married, to be recognized legally as a couple.

And then as a counterpoint to the previous weddings, Block follows Heather and Sam, Wedding #112, and both are very articulate in talking about their hopes and dreams of what they want their marriage to be like. The film ends with the end of their wedding ceremony, and they begin walking literally into the sunset, into the unknown.

112 Weddings makes you realize that there are a lot of things people don't necessarily consider when they get married, but by the same token, you don't know how you will deal with a situation until it happens, and it requires teamwork. Love and communication are essential, but also can the relationship sustain through time? No one knows until they actually go through with it...

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