Review: My Love Affair With Marriage
- Latvian director Signe Baumane returns with a gloriously fun new feature that melds musical, science, animation and female rebellion
After 2014’s rather wonderful Rocks in My Pockets [+see also:
interview: Signe Baumane
film profile], the latest feature from Signe Baumane, My Love Affair With Marriage [+see also:
interview: Signe Baumane
film profile], which has had its world premiere in Tribeca’s International Narrative Competition, contains the mix of cheeky insouciance and sharp introspection that we have come to expect from the Latvian-born animator. While less nakedly autobiographical than some of her other works, this is still a deeply personal affair, as Baumane explores ideas of female identity, and the intricacies and complexities of relationships.
As she grows up in Soviet-occupied Latvia, Zelma (voiced by Polish actress Dagmara Dominczyk) is taught that men want a woman who conforms to a societal idea of being demure and submissive. Thinking that love will be the answer to some of the problems in her life, Zelma begins to mould herself into the woman that she thinks a man will want. But when she finally finds herself married to Sergei (Cameron Monaghan), she discovers that love may not be all that it’s cracked up to be. Beginning to assert her identity in a way she never thought possible, she meets the international and mysterious Bo (Matthew Modine). But this new person means that she must once again question all that has come before.
Whilst those who know Baumane’s work will find many elements that are reassuringly familiar – from the animation aesthetic to the earnest exploration of human relationships – My Love Affair With Marriage still very much stretches her both technically and creatively.
The 2D characters have a slightly “cartoonish” feel – all wide-eyed caricatures – as they walk against painstakingly constructed 3D backgrounds. This visual contrast serves the film well, as it explores the gaps between identity, expectation and desire. Baumane also makes much of the science behind love and gender construction, playfully revealing the chemical reactions and brain functions that regulate our feelings when we fall in (and indeed out of) love. These sequences – animated in a completely different style to the rest of the movie by Yajun Shi – once again provide a compelling and playful juxtaposition between the more grounded moments and those that revel in flights of fantasy.
It would also be remiss not to mention the fact that the film is a musical, too, with Zelma’s tale often told through a number of catchy songs provided by Italian composer Kristian Sensini, often sung by a Greek chorus of “sirens” who follow Zelma throughout her life.
My Love Affair With Marriage is indeed a heady brew of influences, ideas and styles. But rather than becoming an unwieldy mess, it makes for a joyfully exuberant piece of work that manages to conduct some serious examination of human behaviour whilst always being nothing less than gloriously entertaining. Many of its themes of gender, identity and conformity also seem incredibly timely.
With its world premiere swiftly followed by a European one in Annecy’s feature-film competition, the picture is already making a considerable splash and will undoubtedly prove a popular festival hit for both general gatherings and those specialising in animation. With the names of Modine (who also serves as an executive producer), Dominczyk and Monaghan – who all do an excellent job in their roles – being recognisable by audiences, an international theatrical and healthy VoD run is also very likely, especially with the film garnering over 1,500 supporters via its Kickstarter campaign.
My Love Affair With Marriage is a Latvian-US-Luxembourgish co-production. It was produced by Studio Locomotive, Antevita Films and The Marriage Company LLC. Its international sales are handled by New Europe Film Sales.
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