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Entertainment & Arts

Noah Baumbach on telling a love story through divorce in ‘Marriage Story’

Scarlett Johansson, left, Azhy Robertson and Adam Driver in “Marriage Story.”
Scarlett Johansson, left, Azhy Robertson and Adam Driver in “Marriage Story.”
(Wilson Webb / Netflix)

While Noah Baumbach’s latest film, “Marriage Story,” is about a painful divorce, the writer-director describes it also as a love story. When he sat down with Times film writer Mark Olsen for “The Reel” podcast, Baumbach explained what inspired this latest movie.

“In telling the story of a marriage coming apart, I could actually focus even more clearly on the marriage itself,” Baumbach said. “That it could be a story about marriage as much as it was a story about divorce.”

Baumbach has been making movies for over 25 years, and “Marriage Story” is quickly taking off and earning awards nominations. He’s explored similar themes in previous films, including divorce in 2005’s “The Squid and the Whale” and explains the difficulties in trying to make each movie feel different.

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“Each movie I’m trying to express something that’s in my head, trying to find the cinematic expression of the thing in my head. That’s the challenge for every screenplay and every movie that I direct,” said Baumbach.

He says he relies heavily on research and personal stories when writing movies. Sometimes inspired by moments in his own life, or experiences shared with others, he tells Olsen however, that his true vision comes when he can see the fiction in the story.

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“In the case of this, research I did, interviews with other people, a line somebody said to me about their marriage, all of those consist on the page as intriguing ideas,” Baumbach said. “Until I sat down writing it, I couldn’t really start writing and moving forward until the fiction kind of took over.”

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The performances by stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson in “Marriage Story” have caught the attention of audiences and critics alike. On working with the two of them, Baumbach says he often got ideas from what the actors did with the scenes.

“Part of the job is to listen,” Baumbach said. “It is like any kind of conversation. People have different rhythms, they have different ways. But we’re all in service of telling this same story.”

“Marriage Story” premiered earlier this year and is streaming on Netflix.

Check out other episodes of “The Reel” here


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