Cohen documentary doesn’t offer much that is groundbreaking

Marianne Ithelen and Leonard Cohen (Elevation Pictures photo)

The film Marianne And Leonard: Words of Love, depicts an intimate close up of the relationship between Leonard Cohen and one of the most influential women in his life and his work, Marianne Ithelen.

The story begins by focusing on the time Cohen and Ithelen spent together on the Greek island Hydra. During this time, Ithelen became a muse for Cohen’s development as a young artist. They formed a connection which heavily influenced Cohen’s work, their bond lasting until the very end of both of their lives.

Replete with a storage full of stunning rare photos and film footage, the documentary, currently playing at select theatres, excavates another layer of the Leonard Cohen story, allowing viewers a deeper glimpse into his complicated life, especially in the way of his relationships.

It contains an impressive array of personal shots, some notable ones include footage of a naked Cohen swimming in hotel pools, as well as him taking psychedelic drugs and scenes of other iconic backstage moments. The film displays much of Cohen’s offstage eccentricity, adding a more humorous  dimension to Cohen’s character than his usual portrayal as the sombre, “mad artist.”


Despite the compilation of in-depth interviews, concert footage and rare personal moments,  the film largely deviates from its original intent. It seems that the underlying narrative of the romance between Ithlen and Cohen could have been condensed into a much shorter film, however, director Nick Broomfield allowed Ithlen’s role to take a back seat in favour of bringing Cohen’s personal life and relationship details to the forefront.

Although the film does offer more insight into the Leonard Cohen story, its guise of revolving around Cohen’s affair with Ithlen seems misguided. As the film progresses, it has less to do with Cohen and Ithlen’s relationship with each passing moment.

Instead, Broomfield successfully weaves together a wide array of source material to offer fans more perspective on Cohen’s off stage persona. The films great collection of artifacts from the Cohen archives is something his fans will surely appreciate, however Broomfield  is not offering much that is groundbreaking or new to Cohen’s long time followers.