A Marriage Story
Panorama | Documentaries
Helena Třeštíková’s novelistic documentary follows a marriage over the course of 35 years. Czechs Václav and Ivana Strnad are happy at first; students at the time of their shotgun marriage, they both have their dreams. Life, of course, gets in the way, starting with more children and continuing through years of difficulties. The political shifts in their nation aren’t explicitly discussed, but you can sure see the increase in materialism—and, coincidentally or not, personal discontent—that comes with the shift to capitalism.
There are pleasures and successes along the way, though the various crises are severe: child dysfunction, troubles with the family business, mental illness and more. Through it all, the couple keep smiling for the camera, although, as their problems pile up, they get more and more frank in their confessions. One of the best things about the film is the way it hammers home the fact that there are no "ordinary people." Ivana, Václav and their kids come across as resplendently unique—no matter how common their woes. In the end, whether one views this story as tragic or triumphant will depend strongly on one’s personal perspective—but there’s no denying its bittersweet beauty.