My ritual of farewell to my Australian home included a final visit to Narooma Kinema to see 45 years. I was drawn to the movie by a review that used the word “understated”, and by the premise: the arrival of the past in the present when the body of Geoff’s girlfriend from fifty years ago is found perfectly preserved in ice in the Alps.
I was not disappointed. Over five days the impact of this discovery unfolds slowly as Geoff and Kate prepare to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary. You can watch Kate’s mind turning over all the implications through fleeting expressions. It’s a beautifully nuanced portrayal of a long relationship: its easy intimacies, its daily life, its tendernesses and its occasional acerbities.
There were many moments I especially loved: Kate looking in the window of a shop at watches for an anniversary gift; Geoff, unwilling, being persuaded to go to a reunion; the incidental touches in passing; Geoff’s middle of the night search in the attic for a photo of Katya; dancing in the living room followed by an unsuccessful attempt at love-making; Kate looking at the slide showing Katya’s pregnancy.
Part of the understatement was the lack of emoticon-soundtrack. Except for occasional music from the deep past and a brief interlude when Kate plays the piano (one of those pleasures that get lost in routine, like Geoff’s birdwatching), the only sounds are those that belong in the scene: dog barking, wind blowing, chatter of the town street, Geoff thumping around in the attic. There is nothing to direct our response.
I was apprehensive about the way the movie might end. I really didn’t want it to wind up neatly, and it didn’t. After Geoff’s emotional tribute to the marriage, they raise their hands in joint triumph, but Kate breaks the holding and stands quiet and unsmiling.