Film review by Suzie Chick
The film, 45 years, focuses on a married couple, Jeff and Kate, and the week leading up to their 45-year wedding anniversary party. The couple’s apparent idyllic existence is severely disrupted with news that Jeff’s former girlfriend, who had tragically fallen whilst walking in the alpine glaciers with him back in 1962, had recently been found by the Swiss authorities.
The news, at first, appears to make little difference to their lives, but as the initial shock wears off we see Jeff withdraw from Kate. He becomes consumed with researching glaciers and considers travelling to Switzerland to identify the body. Then he physically withdraws from Kate in the middle of a stormy night to rifle through the contents of their loft looking for memories of his former love. The film emphasizes how Kate is left alone with the camera often only focusing on her as if she is talking to no one, maybe to herself or into an empty void.
We get a sense that Kate was almost unconsciously chosen by Jeff as a replacement perhaps as a way of avoiding his grief or guilt.
A battle seems to commence for Jeff’s attention between Kate and Jeff’s former lover, who he tellingly first describes as “my Katia”. We get a sense that Kate was almost unconsciously chosen by Jeff as a replacement perhaps as a way of avoiding his grief or guilt. Not only did the two women look similar but having the same names (Kate and Katia) is a striking coincidence.
There is also a strong sense of time, aging and mortality in the film. Jeff describes how Katia would be perfectly preserved in her glacier at the age of 27 compared to Jeff, and Kate, who are both nearing their late seventies. This revelation only heightens Kate’s jealously, exposing her insecurities. Kate’s emotions reach boiling point as she declares that Katia’s presence has tainted their lives as if Katia has been standing in the corner of the room behind Kate’s back. It seems Katia has been the ghost of their marriage.
Ghosts, like Katia, can lay undiscovered for almost entire lifetimes, perfectly preserved in our memory. The longer the ghost goes unspoken, the darker and deeper the potential wounds to ourselves and others
Ghosts, like Katia, can lay undiscovered for almost entire lifetimes, perfectly preserved in our memory. The longer the ghost goes unspoken, the darker and deeper the potential wounds to ourselves and others. And when the ghost is awoken we are transported back to that time as if it were yesterday. I certainly have experienced this in my own personal and client work. Once a ghost from our past is made conscious and their presence acknowledged then the ghost can be transformed as it loses its haunting power.
Towards the end of the week, as the anniversary party nears, Kate succumbs to her curiosity and visits the loft where Jeff has been so preoccupied. What she discovers shocks her terribly and she seems unable to talk to Jeff about what she found. In the final scene we see Kate breaking down during their first dance at their anniversary party, however her loneliness continues as Jeff and the guests seem oblivious to her pain. At that moment the film poignantly cuts to black marked with Moody Blue’s infamous opener “we’ve already said… goodbye”. As a viewer you’re left in little doubt that Jeff and Kate’s lives will never be the same again. The ghost of Katia is ironically more alive than ever and we can only wonder what the future holds for the couple.
45 Years is directed by Andrew Haigh and written by Andrew Haigh and David Constantine. Artificial Eye, US, 2015. 95 minutes.