Great Films: 'Two for the Road'--A Marriage On the Brink

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In this serio-comic film, Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney star as we watch the dissolution of their marriage over a dozen years.

Mark Wallace: What kind of people just sit in a restaurant and don't say one word to each other?
Joanna Wallace: Married people?

Two for the Road ( 1967) directed by Stanley Donen stars Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney. Written by Frederic Raphael, the nuanced script about a marriage on the brink provides Audrey Hepburn with one of her most complex and moving performances. The film tells the tale of an architect and his wife who examine their twelve-year relationship while on a road trip to Southern France.

Donen directed Hepburn in two of her best films, Charade (1963) and Funny Face (1955). He also directed Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), Damn Yankees (1958) and with Gene Kelly co-directed Singin’ in the Rain (1952) and On the Town (1949). He won a Lifetime Oscar in 1999.

Two for the Road was very influential in its era, considered experimental for its time because the story is told in a non-linear fashion, with scenes from the latter stages of the relationship juxtaposed with those from its beginning. Several locations are used in different segments, to show continuity throughout the twelve-year period.

David Kehr of the Chicago Reader wrote, “Arguably Stanley Donen's masterpiece, and undoubtedly one of the most stylistically influential films of the 60s, Two for the Road (1967) follows a couple (Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney) through four successive trips through the south of France, telling the story of the dissolution of their marriage by cutting from one time level to another. The literate script is by Frederic Raphael.”

Frederic Raphael received an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing, Audrey Hepburn received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Actress, and Henry Mancini received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score.

The film's theme song, "Two for the Road” was composed by Mancini who wrote many notable theme songs for films, including "Moon River" for Breakfast at Tiffany's; he considered "Two for the Road" his favorite of all the songs he wrote.

Now a successful and wealthy architect, Mark Wallace (Albert Finney) and his wife Joanna (Jo) Wallace (Audrey Hepburn) fly their white Mercedes 230SL roadster to Northern France, in order to continue driving to Saint-Tropez to celebrate the completion of a building project for a client.

Tensions between the couple are evident, and as they journey south they both remember and discuss several past journeys along the same road.

Mark Wallace: Just wish that you'd stop sniping.

Joanna Wallace: I haven't said a word!

Mark Wallace: Just because you use a silencer doesn't mean you're not a sniper.

The earliest memory involves how they first met on a ferry crossing when Mark was traveling alone and Joanna was part of a girl's choir. They meet again when Joanna's choirbus goes off the road and Mark helps get them back on the road. When the other girls get chickenpox, Joanna and Mark unexpectedly wind up hitchhiking south together.

Mark Wallace: If there's one thing I really despise, it's an indispensable woman.

Movie poster: Two for the Road

Next the pair drive a new MG which begins to have exhaust troubles, finally catching on fire. On this journey Joanna announces that she is pregnant. They also meet the wealthy Maurice Dalbret (Claude Dauphin) and his wife Françoise (Nadia Gray). Maurice becomes a generous but demanding client for Mark. The next story shows them travelling with their young daughter Caroline (Kathy Chelimsky).

Another time shows Mark travelling alone and having a fling with another motorist, but which is shown to be fleeting and unserious in nature. Later Joanna has an affair with Françoise's brother David (Georges Descrières), which is portrayed as much more serious than Mark's and threatens to end the marriage; however, while Joanna dines with David and they witness a couple eating together without saying a word, David asks, offhandedly, "What kind of people can eat an entire meal together and not talk?" Joanna replies, enthusiastically, "Married people!" and, realizing she misses Mark despite their faded passion, runs back to him.

At the end of the film, the Wallaces manage to end their long-term relationship to Maurice and find a new client in Rome. They honestly analyse their fears and insecurities which have plagued them throughout the film. Finally, they cross the border from France into Italy. This is new ground for them as well as for the audience, signalling a move beyond the old issues into a more mature future.

Joanna Wallace: Mark, I'm back! Mark Wallace: You humiliated me. You humiliate me... and then you come back.

Joanna Wallace: [nods tearfully] That's right.

Mark Wallace: Thank God! [he hugs her and they tearfully kiss]

 

Visit your local library for these resources:

Stanley Donen films on DVD

Stanley Donen
Joseph A. Casper, (1983).

Singin' in the Rain: The Making of an American Masterpiece
Pratibha Dabholkar, (2009).

Dancing on the Ceiling: Stanley Donen and His Movies
Stephen M. Silverman, (1996).

World Film Directors, Volume 2.
John Wakeman, (1988).

Albert Finney in Character : A Biography
Quentin Falk, (1992).
 

Audrey Hepburn: International Cover Girl
Scott Brizel, (2009).

Audrey Hepburn: An Intimate Portrait
Diana Maychick, (1996).

Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn
Spoto, Donald (2006).

Audrey: Her Real Story
Alexander Walker, (1994).

Audrey Hepburn
Ian Woodward, (1984).

 

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