What kind of people sit in a restaurant and have nothing to say to each other? If you’re one of the many ‘Two for the Road’ fans , you’ll already know the answer: “Marriages.” That bite, on display in dialogue made up of flaming knives thrown sarcastically and looks that kill, runs throughout Stanley Donen ‘s film , starring two gorgeous Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn . The filmmaker leaves ‘Singing in the Rain’ far behind to immerse himself fully in a ‘road movie’ based on ‘flashbacks’ and whose essence is a perfect mix between the sweetness of falling in love and the bitterness of married love .
The circumstances surrounding the production are part of it: Hepburn had just suffered her second abortion, and things with her husband Mel Ferrer were bordering on disaster. The personal situation of the actress was not ideal to embark on a project as demanding as the one proposed by Donen, with whom she had already worked on ‘Una cara con angel’ and ‘Charada’ . Luckily for everyone, the filmmaker insisted and the actress gave in, unleashing all her anger, pain and tragedy on the character of Joanna. What she achieved with her performance not only fell in love with the public -in addition to getting her a Golden Globe nomination-, but also with her co-star, with whom she had a more than famous ‘affair’ .
ANATOMY OF THE SCENE
It is not trivial that one of the best scenes of ‘Two for the road’ happens, forgive the redundancy, on the road. As we know, the film tells the story of Mark (Finney) and Joanna (Hepburn) from the time they fall in love by chance until they suffer the erosion of their love as husband and wife. It is not a linear story, but jumps between the past and the present over more than ten years, through a bittersweet relationship where the most important conversations take place inside a car.
The action of this scene is triggered after one of those parties that the couple attends to tear the fissures in their marriage a little more. He talks about her business while she flirts with a certain David, but they never seem to go together . Suddenly, they share a moment of intimacy among so many guests and the noise of the music, almost a moment of illumination made of glances and silences, and they decide to escape from the party and launch themselves -again- onto the road. In that car there is a conversation that combines poisoned darts and declarations of a love that refuses to die completely.
And it starts like this:
– I hate those parties. – I hate those parties, you get excited. – I love you.- And I love you.- How long is this going to last?- How long is what going to last?- This pretending that we are happy. – Who pretends that we are happy? – You, that we are a happy marriage and that you want to continue by my side. – Those are completely different things. – You don’t need to tell me.
The dialogue is absolutely intense , but the fact that the setting is somewhat static does not mean that the staging is less intense. To begin with, the whole mechanism of recording them through the crystals instead of looking for a way to remove that barrier seems to say a lot about the characters themselves, who constantly live on the defensive with each other. Although in this respect there may be infinite readings: Isn’t that insistence on showing them inside the car an allusion to a certain fishbowl complex, a prison, a deadly trap? Or maybe it can be interpreted as a place where your intimacy is so powerful that putting the camera inside it would be immoral? Or, as we said, do they represent the barriers they have erected between themselves, between themselves and the world, between themselves and the fairy-tale postcard suggested by the landscape?
The conversation continues:
– Why are you still here? – Because I’m not you. – How long do you plan to continue remembering the past? – Who is speaking? Who is speaking? – I speak. What would you do if we got divorced?- Cry.- Yes? How long? – I don’t know. Why would we get a divorce? – What if I died? What if it didn’t exist? – If I hadn’t had chickenpox I would have gotten chickenpox. I don’t know.- I love you. – Well then, well then…
Throughout the scene, Mark stops the car , shocked or outraged by some of his wife’s responses. In this bit of dialogue, the past is alluded to: he hasn’t played fair in the relationship, and she taunts him when she tries to question her commitment to this marriage. “I’m not you,” he tells her. Shortly after, he repeats “I love you” again, as if he was afraid that he would forget it again, bringing out more than ever his insecurities as a wounded and confused man . He insists that his wife recognize that she is a fraud, that she does not really love him, but the only thing he is transmitting is the deep fear he has of her leaving him .
When Mark asks Joanna to promise that there will never be anyone like him in his life, we hear: “Of course!”. However, in English, Hepburn says: “I hope” . That is to say, she hopes that there will never be anyone like Mark again in his life, that he will never have a relationship as stormy as the one they have shared. And yet, the flame between them is still burning.