Life & Culture

Watch A Visual Elegy to Leonard Cohen’s Lost Love, Shot in Greece

Collaborating with the Leonard Cohen Estate, NOWNESS presents a beautiful, melancholic film mourning Cohen’s lost love

Launched last year, a partnership between NOWNESS, Sony Music Canada and the Estate of Leonard Cohen has seen a host of renowned filmmakers create remarkable artistic responses to Cohen’s posthumous album, Thanks For The Dance. Revealed today, the latest is a beautiful, melancholic film which interprets the musician’s song Moving On, shot by Turner Prize-winning director Laure Prouvost, who travelled to Cohen’s Greek retreat on the picturesque island of Hydra to create the film.

During the 1960s, Hydra was a bohemian mecca of sorts, attracting artists to its idyllic shores. It was here that Cohen met his lover and muse Marianne Ihlen, in what was a whirlwind romance that inspired much of Cohen’s work – including several songs on his first two albums, Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967) and Songs from a Room (1969). In fact, the back sleeve of the latter album features a now-famous photograph of Ihlen in their Greek home, wrapped in a towel. It is said that Marianne also played a part in the creation of one of Cohen’s most famous songs, Bird on the Wire; one day in Greece, she spotted a small bird perched on a newly erected phone line, remarking that it looked like musical notes and that perhaps Cohen should write a song about it.  

Ihlen is also the subject of Moving On, a mournful and melodic song written some 50 years after she and Cohen first met. Featured on the posthumous Thanks For The Dance, the song was written in 2016 after learning of Marianne’s death. Prouvost’s film is an accompanying visual elegy to Moving On, which retraces Cohen’s footsteps across the idyll of Hydra, capturing the folk poet’s white-washed hideout where he lived with Marianne and its largely unchanged, sun-soaked surroundings. “The island felt timeless, floating in quietness with no cars,” says the French multimedia artist. “I felt in union with all that was there.” Of Moving On, Cohen’s son and producer of Thanks For The Dance Adam Cohen observes: “There’s a nostalgic Mediterranean romance in the music and the vocal delivery… We wanted to conjure the narrator’s memories of Hydra, and put him back in the house where he wrote Bird On The Wire with the ghostly presence of Marianne in the next room.” 

Such ghostly presence is indeed felt in Prouvost’s dreamy film, which is shot from a first person point of view, conjuring romance, memories and loss with flashes of fruit, sea, sun and the empty white-walled rooms of Cohen’s Hydra home, while his soulful, raspy voice sings over the footage. “The clementine means love. The taste of its liquidity, sweet and sour, it trickles with life,” explains Prouvost of the film’s playful motif. “The clementine is also connected with memories of my Grandma’s clementine tree where we used to pick the fresh fruit, spreading and swallowing love.” Watch the film below.