Leonard Cohen: In His Own Words

By Kelly Saxberg

Leonard Cohen’s passing in November 2016 was a turning point for Dalibor Mišina, a professor of sociology at Lakehead University. The death of his idol moved Mišina to produce a film that explores Cohen’s art through interviews he gave over the course of several decades.

Mišina moved to Canada in the summer of 1991. There was something special about reading Leonard Cohen’s first novel, The Favourite Game, in Montreal and recognizing the book’s local references and landscapes. Towards the end of 1992, Leonard Cohen released his ninth album, The Future. Mišina embraced it wholeheartedly. In 2008, it was announced that Leonard Cohen would embark on a worldwide tour for the first time in 15 years. The principal reason for it was “financial inconvenience” that forced him out of retirement. Mišina was lucky enough to attend 25 of those concerts over 5 years.

Late in the evening of November 11, 2016, Mišina received a text from a friend, expressing condolences for Leonard Cohen’s passing. As he was working through what felt like a deeply personal loss, he began to think about the possible ways of capturing and communicating why Cohen mattered so much to him. The video project, Leonard Cohen: In His Own Words, became his attempt to convey this.

The idea was to compile Cohen’s thoughts on some of the key themes that run through his work and shed light on his philosophy on life (and death). Mišina settled on six themes: growing up, writing, love, monastic life, human condition, and the third act. He wanted to create a project that could work as multi-format—whether watched, listened to, or (if it was to be transcribed) read. For this reason, there are no “extras”—background story, music, or voiceover—but only Cohen’s words. The end effect is an introspective insight into Cohen’s thoughts that is both engaging and illuminating.

November 7, 2017 marks the first anniversary of Leonard Cohen’s passing. The screening of Leonard Cohen: In His Own Words is a fitting public event to commemorate it. The free screening will take place at Trinity Hall, 310 Park Avenue, at 7 pm.