In the style of classic love stories, a woman stands on the Liberty Bridge in Budapest waiting for the lover to show at the pre-arranged time and place to show that their love is true. And he does not show. And when she tracks him down, he does not recognise her and says he has never met her before.
So starts Preparation to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time. The question becomes is he a gaslighting bastard or is she delusional? My immediate reaction was, statistically, it’s much more likely he’s a gaslighting bastard than you’re having your first psychotic break at 40. But the movie manages to handle the ambiguity with nuance, never straying into the frustrating or boring. The main character is aware that both are options, and signs up for therapy.
But as her therapist tells her, “I think you want me to diagnose you with a personality disorder so you have a piece of paper that tells you your love didn’t cheat you.” She pours through photos of the conference where they first met for some corroboration of their first meeting, and you as the viewer question, is this simply the logical thing to do, or is this the first steps in stalking based around a delusional obsession? Everything in this film is about micorexpressions, tilts of the head to keep the other in view. And the constant question is, am I reading something into this that isn’t there? Which is why the film is so resonant, because it speaks to a universal experience of love, as something which we feel inside ourselves and yet feels like it is shared, reverberating between two poles. It is an internal experience of something we perceive to have an external element.
As time goes on, this need for her to fact-check her memory recedes as she begins, to some extent, to fear a decisive verdict on its reality, as even the fantasy of love is better than its total absence. A sensual film of wordless attraction and the disorientation of love.