The price of freedom

    BIOGRAPHY: Growing up in the bohemian community at Hydra with Leonard Cohen as a stepfather, Little Axel tells a story of neglect and an overload of freedom.

    The story of artist Leonard Cohen and his Norwegian girlfriend and muse Marianne Ihlen has been told by Nick Broomfield in his 2019 documentary Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love, as well as in books and various media. Their relationship also attracted public attention with the moving farewell letter Cohen wrote to Ihlen just before she died in 2016 – only a little more than three months before Cohen passed away too.

    Ihlen met the young Canadian poet and then aspiring novelist on the Greek island of Hydra in the early sixties. She was living there with her newly born son from a recently ended marriage (even though they formally divorced a little later) with the famous Norwegian writer Axel Jensen, with whom she had moved to the international artist community at Hydra in the fifties. The new Norwegian documentary Little Axel tells the story of this boy, also named Axel, and is in many ways a sadder tale than the love story in Broomfield’s film.

    Little Axel, a film by Fabien Greenberg, Bård Kjøge Rønning
    Little Axel, a film by Fabien Greenberg, Bård Kjøge Rønning

    Mental illness

    The two directors, Fabien Greenberg and Bård Kjøge Rønning, have made a series of interviews with Axel Jr., who hardly can be called little anymore (he is around sixty at the time of the interviews). Axel has a long history of mental illness and has been institutionalised most of his adult life. He now lives in a more open institution, which he describes in the film as “being in a . . .

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    Aleksander Huser
    Huser is a regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
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