So many people asked me what I thought of 45 years that I decided to put down some notes about reviews and discussions with friends, before I actually analyse the films in all its complexities.
The following is not a systematic study of the responses. I gathered 10 reviews and the reactions of 10 friends.
It seems to me that this is a film that elicits very diverse personal reactions. It is difficult to distil these but I will note the salient points without assessment of their frequencies.
The quality of the acting was lauded by nearly all. The film was described as drama/melodrama, ghost story, suspense story, compared favourably with the recent romantic comedies featuring OAPs, beautiful to look at and constructed. Mise-en-scene of an ordinary life. But also it was too long, absurd, melodramatic, scarcely credible.
For me the two major elements of the film are the preservation of Katja’s body in ice and the symmetrical discovery of Katja’s pregnancy. Both are about the past and memories and how we deal with them. Both traumatic events. The first one deals with the past in an unprecedented manner. It is the nearest we can get to the vivid flashbacks of people who suffer from PTSD. Flashbacks are common in films and as a rule they are filmed. I found that the clever devices of preservation, photos and recollections about the past forced me into using my imagination. I felt Geoff’s loss but I felt as excluded from his feelings as was Kate. He is as absent to us as he is to Kate until his decision of not going to identify the body. Kate’s last gesture can be explained by the trauma of seeing Katja pregnant. I imagined the marriage before the discovery as a peaceful and warm one. I was very aware of time as the days to the anniversary were counted on the screen while the past intruded. I was impressed by the social and geographical backdrop. The open ending did not worry me, aware that I preferred to think that the marriage would survive.
Many details escaped me specially those connected with Geoff. I wanted to see the film again to answer some questions: How did Geoff talk about the disappearance and why no spectators mentioned the accident or gave it any importance? what were the roles of Geoff’s and Kate’s friends? were the colours, geographical features, sound track significant? why did some edits perturb me? I would like to study again the past preserved in three different ways as it is in this film and why it is so much powerful than past events being filmed. I would also wish to explore generally in more depth the role of photos and the past in films.
The initiating event: To my surprise few (reviewers) people mentioned the shockingly visual image initiating the event. This exists only in our head and Geoff’s words. Some found the metaphor overdone. The effect on Geoff of the discovery of his lover’s intact frozen body elicited little interest.
Geoff: from S.S. “confronted with his own aged-diminished state by the sudden sharp memory of what he remembered as the most thrilling time of his life. The thought of Katja (significantly similar name to Kate – presumably from the book) not only preserved just as she had been then, in such a very different physical state from what he had become (old, sick, impotent-ish) – not only all that, but with his perfect baby in her body … enough to rock anyone” is the only comment on Geoff’s feelings. Otherwise: he is weak, nostalgic, an unhappy man weighed down by his secret and liberated by its disclosure.
Kate : There were, in this sample, no comments on Kate as a person except that she was a teacher. People commented on the effect of her discovery in the attic of the stash of photos and slides of a pregnant Katja. S.S again “Everything she’d assumed about her marriage suddenly thrown into question, the pain at not having been told about his past, his misery which was making him unreachable, the baby, the feeling that she no longer knew this man – and all out of the blue in the very week of the party which she now wished she could just cancel.” Others interpreted in different ways: she feels dislodged by a young woman from the past whose fresh looks have stayed intact, she asks herself if the dead woman means more to Geoff than her, she feels cheated and lied to, she feels she is second best.
The quality of the married relationship is also commented on at length: For some this was the end of a relationship based on an unresolved problem, based on dishonesty and concealment. The concealment of Geoff being next of kin and Katja being pregnant was seen as the worst offence. Seen as a marriage guide of ‘how to’ or ‘how not to’. Was the couple’s childlessness related to Katja’s pregnancy? Wedding anniversary celebrations or couples who do not communicate are of no interest. Geoff’s speech was gruesome. How could Kate have married such a weak character?
The open ending: Kate’s last gesture of rejection is interpreted as a breakdown of the marriage by some. For others the marriage had been comfortable and “I feel optimistic about their relationship now that there are no more secrets.”
There were more general thoughts on the line “do we ever know our partners after years of marriage?” “Is it possible to convey feelings of events past?”
“This story is about whether secrets can be survived, whether the knowing or not knowing is more injurious.”
“Haigh seems to be suggesting that even in a “happy” marriage, neither partner can ever really understand the other, and that at any moment their relationship can turn toxic.”
“Good marriages are full of history, as one Pooterish character tells Rampling”
In case it is missed, look at the comment at the bottom of the page