NEW YORK - As filmmaker Doug Block sat in a coffee shop talking about his "112 Weddings" documentary, a stranger interrupted him to talk about the state of her marriage.
She wasn't even aware of the film, which debuts at 9 p.m. Monday on HBO. The conversation she eavesdropped on enthralled her. As Block gets more exposure for "112 Weddings," during which he revisits couples for whom he shot wedding videos to ask how marriage has gone, he'd better get used to such interactions.
The New York-based Block has made wedding videos for a dozen years to earn extra money, and sensed from the beginning there was a film there. He made sure to retain ownership of wedding footage, although he doesn't use it without permission of the couples.
"I loved the idea of starting a movie where most Hollywood movies end, which is the bride coming down the aisle," said Block.
He knew the time was right when he called Janice and Alexander Caillet of Newton, Mass., who talked at length about why they didn't need the official sanction of a marriage when Block filmed their "commitment ceremony." Thirteen years later, they were getting married.
Janice and Alexander believed their word to each other was a strong enough commitment for many years. Once they had children, the legal advantages became apparent. "We wanted to make sure that nothing was going to keep us apart," Janice said. "We didn't need anything to keep us together."
Some of the marriages ended in divorce. One couple has struggled to care for a sick child, another has hung on through the wife's depression. Children and job pressures take a toll, and the relationships ebb and flow.
Block focuses on 10 couples, including No. 112 as they prepared for their wedding.
Most couples were filmed as they sat side-by-side talking about their marriages, an interesting dynamic in itself.
Interestingly, he asked all the couples if they felt they'd married their soul mates, and none said yes. Some joked about it, saying it was a lovely concept.
"The film stresses that marriage is hard, that it takes work," Block said. "People see that as a negative, that it's a bad thing. But it's not.
"Life is going to throw things at you," he said. "People get old and die. Kids are born and grow up and leave. You face layoffs or success. There are all sorts of challenges that you come up against together, and how you deal with them as a couple determines whether you're going to make it or not. The idea that it's going to be an easy path is ridiculous."