The Story of my Wife by Ildikó Enyedi

Ivan Magrin-Chagnolleau

Social Hypocrisy versus Authenticity, or How to Lose Your Soul

The Story of my Wife is the new feature film by Hungarian filmmaker Ildikó Enyedi (On Body and Soul, 20th Century), adapted from a book by Hungarian writer Milán Füst. This is a book that Ildikó Enyedi read a long time ago and which appealed to her greatly at the time. She had wanted to do a film adaptation of the book for a long time.

The Story of my Life tells the story of Captain Jakob Störr (Gijs Naber), who is a ship captain, and has been lonely for a long time, without a woman in his life. One day, while having a meeting in a restaurant with his long-time friend Kodor (Sergio Rubini), he makes the bet he will propose to the next woman walking through the door. It happens to be Lizzy (Léa Seydoux), a French woman. When he finally finds the courage to go to her and tell her about the bet, she accepts.

The film then tells the story of this couple, between a ship captain and a refined French young woman, an ill-assorted couple with very different needs and takes on the meaning of life.

What is really striking while watching this film is the treatment of the story by Ildikó Enyedi. The mise-en-scène is really amazing. Her way of filming the sea, the life on a cargo, the loneliness of the captain, who rarely mingles with the rest of the crew reinforces the contrast with the other aspect of his life, trying to live within a finely decorated apartment and in a very refined high-society. Ildikó Enyedi creates a striking opposition between this simple man with basic needs and expectations in life that his wife tries to model to her image, while at the same time having a life on her own, while he is away, and sometimes even when he is here. The formal work on the image and on the lighting by cinematographer Marcell Rév is also amazing.

The film reflects on the topic of risking losing yourself and your soul when not remaining authentic to who you really are, and how one can be corrupted by another person when blinded by love. In spite of what happens to him, Captain Jakob Störr tries to find salvation at the end of the film when he finally confronts the truth about having been fooled by his wife.

The beauty of the film resides also in the complexity of the characters, and the fact that they are not really who we expect them to be. In spite of her foolishness, Lizzy is genuinely in love with her husband, at times. And in spite of being the one playing the role of the fool, Jakob ends up being the one developing the most profound philosophy of life. These characters are carried by excellent actors, and in particular Gijs Naber playing Jacob, who is really amazing in the film.

There is something that stays with you after watching this film, a sort of sadness for these two persons who wasted their chance at true love in the name of social hypocrisy and having to pretend to be someone they are not. In this sense, this film is very modern, and reflects on our own modern world, where authenticity is not as much praised as it used to be.

Director: Ildikó Enyedi
Screenplay: Ildikó Enyedi based on the book by Milán Füst
Cinematography: Marcell Rév
Editing: Károly Szalai
Sound: Matthias Schwab
Music: Ádám Balázs
Gijs Naber (Captain Jakob Störr)
Léa Seydoux (Lizzy)

Biography of Ivan Magrin-Chagnolleau