Written by S. Bowyer


112 Weddings

     Doug Block, a celebrated documentarian, producer and director, began his career in video taping weddings for income while he worked on his craft. He filmed a plentiful 112 ceremonies during the last 20 years, and has since created 112 Weddings, a look at the couples he filmed and where they are now.

     "I'd send out the video and then I'd never see them again. . . What will become of their marriages?" he thought.

     112 Weddings shows footage of the marriages he captured, as well as interviews with the couples today. While he could not cover all of the couples, due to time contraints and some now divorced and/or unwilling to talk, he features some of his memorable couples. He sought to find out age-old questions: 

* what they thought marriage would be like when they got married?
* has their relationship gotten off-track and if it did, what did they do?
* was marriage what you expected?
* how did they meet?
* what was the biggest issue that came up?
* what advice do you give people about to get married?


 

     At first appearance it seems like a quaint documentary, that is probably all happy-ever-after, however we soon see that despite most of the couples being married for years, there is no absense of struggle. Many of the couples are intriguing while the viewer tries to figure what they aren't saying, not just what they are. One which case is from Wedding 49, Olivia and Dennis. We see footage of the wedding where Olivia states she's holding off her tears because she wants to be "mature" and is demanding to hold it to the end of the ceremony. Her determination is incredible. 

     Block seeks out the couple after 9 years of marriage. There is brief description of the marriage from Olivia, but Dennis seems to be pushing for more. Suddenly the name Lily comes up, and Olivia becomes overly emotional. Dennis pushes her further, until Olivia explains their child's situation and the difficulty they've had. The couple both share their experiences in being parents of a difficult lifestyle.

     "Are we happy? Yeah, sometimes," Dennis says, with his wife adding, "sometimes".

     Olivia reflects on her relationship with her husband. "Sometimes I think he's the biggest jerk in the world, and then he'll do something funny or say something funny, and I'll see him the way I saw him when I met him. And I laugh, and I'll think to myself, 'Oh! That's why I married him."

     Block notes to himself that families in the wedding show the dynamics of their lives. We see footage of a family argument during a photo session at one of the weddings.

     "It's about 2 families coming together. . . but I can't allow myself to get too distracted. The day is all about the bride and groom, and believe me, they have their own really interesting dynamic."

     The documentary is very much testament to that, showing that although couples have been together for years, some of them are surprised how each other answers the questions. One such couple seemed on the verge of tension after a husband jokes, "don't get married!", for his wife to be hurt. Often the couples confer to answer the questions posed to them, but other times they confidently answer personally. 

     During the journey that is this documentary, Block poses the question, why get married? In a world of co-habitation and children outside of marriage, he ponders its importance. He asks the thoughts of a lesbian couple he knows who are wedding photographers. 

     "Marriage is just this really important social institution and it's how . . . one of the way in which our society kinda defines citizenship. And so many priveleges are afforded to people who are married. We hear our queer friends who just think marriage is not what we should be fighting for -- it should be abolition of marriage, but I think you can't deny the reality that that is how society is structured today and in order to have an equal place in that -- it makes sense to get married," one lesbian partner says.

     Her partner states, "When you're not married it's so much easier to say 'okay, see you later'. . . but once you make that decision to be with somebody forever you really want to work on it, and figure out how to make it last. I don't know if it's going to be that different."

     Included in the footage is a couple that didn't marry, but instead had a commitment ceremony filmed with family attendance instead. The initial interview before their celebrations is Block asking them to explain their choices. They speak about the difficulties of loving unconditionally, and what it all means. Thirteen years later, they are living together with their children, and now have different thoughts on marriage, which they share. 

     Block speaks to his friend, who is now a Rabbi and asks his opinion of marriage and weddings. He openly states he would not remove struggle from a marriage -- even if he had the power to.

     "That's like taking the mountain range of life and raising it to a valley and what fun is a valley? because there's nothing to scale and distance to appreciate," Rabbi explains.

     "Happy weddings are a dime a dozen. Happy marriages are much more rare and therefore much more precious." He adds. "Making a wedding happy is easy -- you just throw a tonne of liquor and money at it. Throw money and liquor at a marriage and it makes things a lot worse."

     Block also contemplates the idea of "soulmates," and asks the couples their thoughts. 

     One husband says, "Soulmate is kind of a lovely, lovely concept, but it also means that there's only one, it was completely pre-ordained, and the moment you were born the universe knew you two would be together. It's a lovely idea, you know what I mean, but . .. we want to become soulmates by being together . . .and doing everything we do together."

     A wife comments, "I have a lot of soulmates, they're just different souls. I'm sure if I hadn't met you, I would have met someone else." Her husband agrees.

     Woven into the fun and joy of marriage, Block also confronts the negatives and not-so-happy-ever-after. He speaks to several partners who have now divorced, as well as a woman who is suffering from great depression which afflicts her relationship with added stress.

     "I would have wanted to. I wonder if this was the best choice for Adam," she says.  

     "I see the difficulties. . .the yelling, the sadness, and not being able to engage my daughter."

     Her husband speaks directly to her, on film. "I personally feel that you're worth waiting for," he tells her. "And even if that's never. . . I wouldn't want to do this with anyone else." "If you give up, what's the alternative?" he asks her.

     

     Block really considers all that he has learnt in his career as wedding recorder, and speaks about the kiss to finalise the vows. 

     "Lately, I've been thinking there's a more significant moment. It's when the two people first face the world together as a married couple. . and walk off into the unknown future. Whatever tomorrow may bring, today is for celebrating, and I'm there to capture it for prosperity(?)."

     The documentary closes with a special surprise ending, which the viewers will not see coming, as well as a special "advice" session a marriage filmed had included. Friends and family share what they have learnt about marriage to the just-married, in gender specific groups. I think it was an interesting way to finish, and certainly a thought-provoking and amusing end.

 

     112 Weddings is available on online streaming sites, or available to purchase on DVD at the website, http://112weddingsmovie.com/.

  • No comments found