The gossip magazines were right after all: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are getting divorced.
Jolie has filed for divorce “for the health of the family”, according to a statement released by her lawyer. The couple, which has been together since 2005 and were married in 2014, has six children together, three of which are adopted. Pitt was married to Jennifer Aniston when he met Jolie during the shoot of Mr and Mrs Smith in 2004. Jolie has been previously been married to Jonny Lee Miller and Billy Bob Thornton.
Murmurs of mutual trouble were swirling when Jolie directed her second film, By the Sea, in 2015. We predict a spike in sales of the film’s DVDs, since it is about a couple trapped in a loveless marriage. Roland (Pitt) and Vanessa (Jolie) travel to a seaside hotel in France, where their encounters with other people, including a married couple in the neighbouring room, help them decide to give their relationship a second chance. Art clearly does not imitate life.
Mike Nichols’s 1966 film Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, based on the Edward Albee play, is also about the volatile marriage of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Not really, but what is how audiences and critics at the time saw the raging fights, petty arguments and mutual insults that fly between the long-married academic couple (and recently wed pair in real life) in the movie. Burton and Taylor had left their respective spouses to marry each other only two years before the movie. They were the Brangelina of their time (the press called them “Liz and Dick”). They divorced in 1974, remarried in 1975, and finally divorced again in 1976.
One of the most well-known chronicles of the end foretold on film is Orson Welles’s Lady From Shanghai (1974), made at a particularly fraught time during Welles’s marriage with lead actress Rita Hayworth. The movie’s brilliance is undisputed, but it was hinted that Welles took out his frustrations again Hayworth in the treatment of her character, an ice-cold blonde who meets a tragic end for her perfidy. Trust Welles to create one of the most gorgeous and disturbing break-up scenes ever filmed – the copiously copied Hall of Mirrors sequence. The divorce happened soon after.
Couples on the verge of a breakdown undeniably make for great cinema and television. The professional and romantic relationship between Norwegian actress and director Liv Ullmann and Swedish master Ingmar Bergman lasted for 42 often turbulent years and produced some of the most searing examinations of love lost, regained, and lost again. Bergman’s 1973 Swedish television series Scenes from a Marriage depicts a breakdown in slow motion between a professor (Erland Josephson) and a lawyer (Ullman). The portrait of a marriage that throttles both partners is one of its kind. More painful is the honesty with which Bergman depicts, and the actors perform, the lies that that estranged couples tell each other and themselves. Do not watch with a partner – there will be bitter arguments, make-up sex, and a call to the lawyer the next day.
Even Indian cinema has not been immune to real-life permanent separations playing out on the screen. Imtiaz Ali’s best movie Jab We Met, from 2007, starred the recently separated real-life couple Kareena Kapoor and Shahid Kapoor – a screen match made in heaven that was actually coming undone even before the film was released. None of it showed on the screen, though: both actors are at their professional best and are most convincing as a couple destined for life, at least in the movie.