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Film: CERTIFIED COPY
Request: "I'd like to know your 'interpretation' of the movie."
Certified Copy took me by surprise, I admit. But then I had to laugh at the irony. And laugh. And laugh. Here's why.
Certified Copy begins with a discussion of James Miller's book, "Certified Copy". This speech is a justification for what will occur between Miller and The Woman. Over the course of the film, we see not only how the dynamic between these two changes, but how the characters themselves change. At first they're strangers meeting up, then they're married, then they're separated, then they're maybe rekindling their love, and the end of the film could maybe even be viewed as them dying. We see Miller go from a polite man to a brooding dick. The Woman goes from sort of crazy and desperate to romantic and sad. At first we might feel bad for him, by the end, we probably feel bad for her. You may be wondering, throughout, what the hell is going on.
Let me tell you what this movie is not: logical. Anyone who tries to find backstory between these characters is wrong.
On an Amazon.com review, someone says: "After viewing the film several times, it seemed clear to me that they had once been lovers, she had gotten pregnant, they had hastily married, then later separated from one another. The film (mostly) hangs together with this interpretation, but not entirely. There is one spot where James asks the woman 'Where (or when) did you get married?', as if he has no idea that he is her husband. Also, James has no memory at all of their wedding night, or where they were married. Nor has he much interest in her young son. And he treats this woman like she is nothing to him. How or why does any man turn down the advances of a woman like this? This, it seems to me, is a movie about James and his deep emotional paralysis, more than about the woman or their marriage."
If you want to believe the movie makes this kind of sense, sure, go for it. But that's not what's going on.
In Certified Copy reality is dream-like, fluid. Miller and The Woman were not married, but as soon as the cafe worker assumes they're married they become married. The son who wasn't their son becomes their son. Remember that opening speech, about authenticity being irrelevant? About how a copy is as original as an original? Whichever reality we're viewing is what's real. When Miller and The Woman weren't married: that was real. Now they are married: that's real. When Miller was the polite writer riding in the car of an emotionally unstable woman: that was real. When The Woman is the emotionally battered wife of a frustrated, quick-to-snap Miller: that is real.
This doesn't explain why I was laughing though. Here's why I was laughing.
In 1995, the author Kazuo Ishiguro released a book called The Unconsoled. In it, reality is dream-like, fluid. To a far greater extent than in Certified Copy. A two-floor elevator ride can take 10-15 minutes in Unconsoled. Doors in random places lead to other random places. Landscapes change. Personalities warp. A character is nice one minute, snarky the next, ecstatic again. If you made Certified Copy into a 5 hour movie, with an increased cast of characters and more things going on, you have The Unconsoled. It's the same concept applied differently: reality is fluid, the dynamics of relationships shuffle, history is morphing--all of this influenced by dialogue and memory.
So here's a movie called Certified Copy that feels so...original. But 15 years before its release, The Unconsoled came out. Which means it's more than likely that Certified Copy is, well, a sort of copy. It's much less frustrating and much more pleasurable than The Unconsoled, I would argue--at the very least, more pleasurable than not, the film is a different experience than the novel. But there's no doubting: if you read Unconsoled you know exactly where Certified Copy came from, and exactly how to interpret it.
I hope this helps, Mrs. Foster.