Coincidentally (I think) I happened to be reading Lily Tuck’s novel I Married You For Happiness when I saw Michael Haneke’s Amour at the IU Cinema– both of which are about an elderly, long-married spouse’s response to the death of his/her partner. You probably know about Amour. The donnée of Tuck’s novel is a bit different; at its onset, the narrator Nina is at the bedside of her husband, who after going upstairs to take a quick nap, has died suddenly; the novel plays out in that night, as she stays by his corpse, thinking back over memories from their marriage. As its title suggests, I Married You For Happiness is less about the death than about the marriage, and I found it to be a moving and engaging portrait of a not-untroubled long-term relationship as it spools out over decades. They meet at a cafe in Paris where she is reading an avant-garde French novel by Natalie Saurraute (which hints at Tuck’s aesthetic program). Theirs is a C.P. Snow two-cultures kind of marriage, she a painter, he a mathematician, and one of its concerns is the way two people with different ways of thinking, kinds of mind, and perspectives can form a life together. In this it reminded me of Virginia Woolf’s portrait of a somewhat incompatible yin/yang marriage in the Ramsays:
Whenever she "thought of his work" she always saw clearly before her a large kitchen table. It was Andrew's doing. She asked him what his father's books were about. "Subject and object and the nature of reality," Andrew had said. And when she said Heavens, she had no notion what that meant. "Think of a kitchen table then," he told her, "when you're not there." So now she always saw, when she thought of Mr. Ramsay's work, a scrubbed kitchen table.
Nina is a bit Mrs Ramsay-like in her bemused attitude to her abstractly-thinking husband’s worldview. Although in other ways she, as an artist, more resembles Mrs. Ramsay’s protege Lily, the painter (Lily Tuck/ Lily Briscoe?).
I am a longtime Haneke fan (I’ve seen most of his films, I think — my favorite is probably Caché; I can never bring myself to watch either version of Funny Games), and I found Amour brilliant and/but hard to watch in some respects. I read one review that asserted that it is “not a depressing movie” and in fact that it would be a good choice for a couple to go see on Valentine’s Day. It’s true that it’s a notably realist and unsentimental depiction of long-term commitment– one that considers what the phrase “’till death do us part” might really mean in practice. Not sure I’d really recommend it for date night, though. One friend saw it at a different showing at the IU Cinema during which she reports various audience members were crying, one woman doing so throughout the entire film and, at one climactic moment (you can probably guess which if you’ve seen it), shouting out loudly “no!” My friend says she actually kind of wished she’d seen it on DVD at home, as the emotion in the audience was a bit overpowering.