The character I think has the most character development, one who is often overlooked, is pseudo-narrator Mark Cohen. While he is essentially the protagonist because he’s documenting everything that takes place, I feel like many people lose sight of that because throughout the film, he is a spectator to what’s happening around him. Not much happens to him since he’s always caught up trying to mend the problems of his friends, but we more-so see how his lack of action affects him.
Mark has a strong voice, which will make him such a great filmmaker, but he tends to get overshadowed by the problems of his friends. The story begins with him still trying to motivate his roommate, Roger, to go out and be a productive member of society. Despite his attempts, Roger is reluctant as he’s still mourning the loss of his girlfriend, who killed herself when she was diagnosed with HIV.
The biggest example of this is found in his solo, Halloween, where he laments his loneliness and how all of his friends will soon be dead, leaving him alone. However, in the movie version of this production, they chose to omit the two songs that gave Mark the most character development and fully explain his character.
Roger doesn’t like hearing what Mark has to say, thus retaliating by insulting him, informing him that he has no right to judge him or his decisions. He goes on to say, “Mark’s in love with his work; Mark hides in his work.”
He calls him out on hiding behind his camera and how he vicariously lives through his friends to avoid facing the loneliness he experiences. Roger goes on to say he lives a lie when he argues, “You’re always preaching not to be numb, but that’s how you thrive” and how he detaches from feeling alive. Mark counters by pointing out that he uses detaching from life as a coping mechanism when he says, “perhaps it’s because I’m the one of us to survive.” In his mind, it’s easier than becoming attached, since half of his friends are going to be dead from AIDs soon.
The theme presented in this scene and within this song is how Mark’s loneliness is masked by hiding behind his camera. As the narrator of the movie, Mark is filming his friends as they go about their daily lives and Mark himself is rarely seen on his film. His ex-girlfriend, Maureen, has to actually pry his camera from his hands at one point so she can get him in his own movie. This scene is meant to exemplify how lonely Mark truly feels amongst his friends who are all experiencing romance and have a connection to someone, whereas, his girlfriend dumped him for a lawyer named Joanne.
This helps to understand the extent of Mark’s loneliness and how it kills him inside to think that soon he’ll be the only remaining survivor among his friends and no matter how much he documents, eventually they’ll be forgotten.
I’ll never be over leaving ‘Goodbye Love’ movie because it takes away from an important director’s detail in ‘What You Own’. Here, we finally find out what Mark’s problem is. Everyone else’s issues are on the table, all on their sleeves, but Mark is the only seemingly ‘normal’ one. He doesn’t have AIDS, doesn’t have a love interest, doesn’t do drugs, or anything. He’s the main support for a lot of the characters, constantly tries to ease the tension with Collins.
After researching information about how other fans of the Broadway show and film interpreted Mark’s character through his solos, someone talked about how we truly see his disconnect with the rest of the group, how left out he feels, how he tries to resolve the fact that all of his friends are dying by dissociating through film.
I seconded this opinion because Mark clearly detaches himself through his film, given he rarely appears in it, as stated previously. They also noted how in ‘What You Own,’while Roger is shown discontent with New Mexico, Mark gets more and more visibly upset, which is rare for his character. Then, the part he usually says into the phone, quitting his job to finish his own work, was instead shouted from the rooftop.