Doug Block retroactively explores marriage.
When one of America’s most hallowed institutions has a 50 per cent chance of ending in divorce, why is there still such a desire to sign on the dotted line? 112 Weddings, directed by Doug Block, explores the attraction behind being legally bonded to another person and what goes into not only getting, but staying married.
As a wedding videographer, Block soon realized there was a whole other aspect of intimacy and emotion which he was privy to in this profession. Hired for his intimate documentary style, Block frequently found himself standing feet away from two virtual strangers as they publicly pledged their everlasting love and fidelity to each other. He found that he came away feeling a great affection for the couples, yet he couldn’t help but wonder what had become of them all.
So began Block’s project to track down some of his favourite couples to find out how their marriages had developed. Block often asks difficult questions such as the following: What makes marriage work, or not? Is married life what they thought it would be? How have they navigated the inevitable ups and downs of marriage over the long haul? Why even bother getting married at all? Eventually it becomes clear in many cases that there are no definite answers because, as Block wisely puts it, “happily ever after is complicated.”
Juxtaposing rapturous wedding day flashbacks with remarkably candid present-day interviews, 112 Weddings explores the themes of love and marital commitment, drawing a vibrant picture of the relationships that couldn’t sustain themselves and the ones that seem destined to last forever. This contrast nails home just how different marriage is from the big day. As Block’s rabbi friend facetiously puts it, “The wedding is the easiest day to make happy. You’ve just thrown a ton of money and liquor at it. Marriage is harder. When you throw money and liquor at it, it makes it worse.”
Marriage is not always a pretty picture; the film displays a lot of raw emotion, even when the marriages have been mostly happy. Out of those who agreed to be interviewed, one couple was divorced, one in the throes of divorce, and several more had clearly been through the marital wringer, particularly those with sick children or those experiencing depression. Often there are times when it feels like the viewer is intruding on a therapy session, which is a testament to how deeply the film explores the problems experienced by some participants.
Nonetheless, there’s something undeniably fascinating in watching people sit down in front of a camera and discuss the success of their relationship. The shots are framed so that the interviewees’ body language is in dialogue with their spoken testimony, and we watch carefully for gestures of intimacy underneath their words.
This revealing documentary attempts to put marriage under a microscope – a startling and welcome breath of reality for an institution highly obscured by fantasy. Sometimes charming, occasionally sad, the couples’ stories are often a joy to behold. The secrets of a successful marriage remain mysterious, however, since it seems like there is no one universal set of instructions. What Block does give us, and very effectively, are honest, sometimes painful portraits of couples, what their lives together have brought, and how they are continuing to navigate their relationships.
112 Weddings was screened by Sackville Film Society on Nov. 20. Their next feature will be Whiplash on Nov. 27.