In theaters from April 14, My Wife’s Story is too long and dispersive melò, unable to go into depth to speak to its audience.
After the Golden Bear won at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival, the Hungarian director Ildiko Enyedi addresses the literature of the twentieth century. The challenge was to adapt My wife’s story (Adelphi), written in 1942 by his compatriot Milan Füst. The film premiered at Cannes 74 and arrives in Italian cinemas from April 14, 2022 thanks to Other Stories. Unfortunately, the promise of an epic Central European melodrama is shipwrecked amid uncertain applause. From the vision of My wife’s story in fact, one comes out confused. The technical sector is impeccable, thanks to a sensible direction and a true-to-life photography instant classic (albeit indebted to other cinema), but gives way to an unresolved dramaturgy.
For Enyedi it is the first English-language film. An ambitious and wide-ranging co-production, certainly aided by a cast that sees the names of Louis Garrel and Léa Seydoux. The protagonists of the project are Inforg-M&M Film, Palosanto Films Srl, Arte France, Pyramide Productions, Komplizen Film and Rai Cinema. Italy is also present in front of the camera, with the participation of Sergio Rubini and Jasmin Trinca in a small cameo. But it is not the cast that affects the success of the film. Among the reasons, an excessive length (180 minutes) which is not supported by the story told.
My wife’s storybut look like a husband
The 400 pages of Milan Füst become 180 very long minutes. The story follows the (less and less romantic) love affairs of an anomalous couple from Europe in the 1920s. Captain Storr (Gijs Naber) is a middle-aged Dutch man who suffers but doesn’t know why. A challenge arises: the first woman who passes through that door will become my bride. Come in Léa Seydoux, young Lizzy; stealth, French accent, doom (or maybe not).
Of sailors’ wives we know the incomparable melancholy. That’s a job “who breaks women’s hearts”. But My wife’s story focuses on the suspicious captain, big as a bear but very fragile. The original title of the novel says a lot about the film: “The reminiscences of Captain Storr”. The man’s uncertain and naive sweetness turns into a dangerous obsession. A short-circuited voyeur’s gaze who refuses his role as a sea dog and begins to stalk, question, doubt. She is his wife, but she doesn’t trust him. To such an extent that the sea becomes an exquisitely dreamlike parenthesis, ever further away. On their wedding night they had played strip poker: the captain was naked, she wasn’t. Likewise Ildiko Enyedi paste the target to the pages of Füst to tell the spoliation of a man who reaches madness. Nothing remains of it, if not the slightly petty ambiguity.
“Forgive my intrusion, but please be my wife“
A film in the middle: nice to see but a bit empty
My wife’s story It’s not a couple story. Léa Seydoux interprets, very well, the reflection of a continuous hesitation. More than character, ghost. We don’t know anything about her past and we study her like real voyeurs: for shapes. She how she sits, how she talks, how she smokes (especially). And her story? Irrelevant. These are the “Reminiscences of Captain Storr”. In this bankruptcy obsession Enyedi look for the groove of Paul Thomas Anderson, a little The Hidden Thread a little’ The Oilman. It’s not the absence of Daniel Day Lewis that pays off My wife’s story particularly far from its references – Gijs Naber does his duty – but the feeling that the film is unfinished. Three hours pass serious because despite the pretentious division into chapters, the film does not move. He seeks verticality – the same as the sleeping cetaceans that open the film, but also the same as a body drowning in the sea – but he never finds the right depth to intercept the viewer.
My wife’s story and a mundane adage with voltage peaks always managed and controlled. The captain responds to a defiant gesture by smashing plates and chairs. Ildikó Enyedi keeps the volume at bay, brings the sound back underwater, a space that man seems to want to belong to. A significant nonsense: a ship captain should covet the surface, not the depths of the sea. “Tell me a secret Captain, how do ships not sink?” one of the numerous women who peep into this story asks her slyly, always dashed with grace and full control roar twenties.
The literary derivation is unequivocal and uncomfortable for a film that we end up reading and not following. Enyedi’s direction surrounds editing, photography and music in a suspended whole that seeks (and finds) cinema, but loses it in an inconclusive verbosity in which we end up getting used to the aesthetic care but never to the hesitation of characters with whom we don’t communicate. I am unacceptable protagonists (crossed lead to dead ends) of a film that is nice to see, but a bit superfluous. The melò works, but the refined sensuality wavers, weighs on Seydoux’s shoulders, and says little about the relationship between power, sex, doubt, loneliness. There are all these ingredients, but they remain on the table and in three hours they are never surprising due to the possible crossroads where they could have met. We wait, and after 180 minutes the film is still there: it floats like bamboo, beautiful and empty.