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American Women's Club of Hamburg

45 Years

UK 2014
Opening September 10, 2015

Directed by: Andrew Haigh
Writing credits: Andrew Haigh
Principle actors: Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, Geraldine James, Dolly Wells

45 Years In a week’s time it is Kate and Geoff’s 45th wedding anniversary which is going to be celebrated with all their friends. The retired couple is happy and well settled in their rural home in the misty countryside of Eastern England. Each morning Kate takes their Alsatian dog for a brisk walk. Routinely she comes back with the mail and the couple sits together with a cup of tea. One day there is a letter bringing disturbing news. A woman’s frozen body has been discovered in a glacier of the Swiss mountains. It is Katya, Geoff’s great love, who died during a mutual hiking holiday 50 years ago. He is visibly shaken. Kate is confused and mildly irritated but tries to be understanding. During the following days Geoff slips more and more into his own past which subtly undermines the trust built up during long years of marriage. Slowly the comfortable relationship - which had been taken for granted - seems to change. It is disquieting watching Kate climbing up the shaky ladder to the attic where she finds Geoff’s carefully kept evidence of his long-lost love. Charlotte Rampling’s facial expression (as Kate) shows the full scale of shock, fury and hurt when realizing the truth that Geoff had kept from her during all these years. It is more than just being jealous of the dead.

Dutifully Kate continues to organize the big event. The 45th anniversary is being held in style with Geoff holding a moving speech. But how much is really left of their marriage? Kate’s body language lets us feel her passive aggressiveness, her unspoken words of suppressed feelings. Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay are a very convincing couple giving one of their finest performances with typical English understatement of the inner emotional chaos, relaying on small gestures and facial expressions.

Andrew Haigh based his contemporary British drama on a short story by David Constantine. There is no musical score, except the occasional song played on the radio.  The wind howling around the house, the birds in the mornings or the dog’s barking create their own atmosphere. The love to detail, the long shots of the open landscape or zooming-in on the facial expressions make it a slow moving intimate film, also thanks to cinematographer Lol Crawley’s sensitivity.

45 Years was chosen Best Film at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Both actors were each awarded The Silver Bear at the Berlinale 2015. ()

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