Sarah Polley’s post MeToo experience of ‘radical democracy’

Sarah Polley’s post MeToo experience of ‘radical democracy’

ENCOUNTER – Raped by the men of their village, women from an isolated community must decide what to do. One of the rare works signed by a director to compete for the Oscars.

On March 12 at the Oscars, Sarah Polley will be an anomaly. The former Canadian actress (my life without me), who became a filmmaker (Take This Waltz), will be the only director in the running for the Oscar for best film for Women Talking. The 44-year-old artist is also competing in the best adaptation category.

Earth-shattering dive into an isolated Mennonite religious community in North America, her female story, which brings together Rooney Mara, Claire Foy and Frances McDormand, tells how the women of the village understand that they and their daughters have been drugged and raped by the men. The latter went to town to pay bail for those who were arrested. In their absence, three matriarchs gather, with their clans in the barn, to decide: should they forgive? Should they take revenge? Should they leave? How to reconcile their faith with the sordid reality?

Passing through Paris a few weeks ago, Sarah Polley insisted on the message of appea*****t and listening at the heart of her camera which arrives on our screens for Women’s Day, Wednesday March 8.

LE FIGARO – Why did you want to adapt Miriam Toews’ book?

Sarah Polley- I haven’t read his novel. I inhaled it! And he never left me. I was fascinated by the questions it raised and immediately wondered which actresses would succeed in carrying and embodying this text. Women Talking is much more than a conversation. I wanted something epic in the image of the subjects covered and this hayloft that opens onto the meadows and the outside world in which the women gather.

How did you appropriate Miriam Toews’ device?

I first wrote a version of the script for each character so as to never lose sight of their feelings and their point of view at every minute. In the book, the narrator of this meeting is August, the teacher who takes the minutes of the debate. It seemed to me that the stakes would be more apparent to the viewer if the narrator was the youngest participant. It creates an immediate bond. We also relied on our Mennonite consultants to be sure to remain as authentic as possible.

On paper, filming a debate seems like simplicity itself.

Much less camera in hand (laughs). Some dialogue scenes were up to 15 minutes long and took up to three days to shoot. We took the time to do fifteen days of rehearsals. It was grueling for my actors and actresses and required a lot of stamina. It’s no coincidence that these actresses had real stage experience. In the theatre, you have to stay at the same level of intensity night after night without letting yourself be devoured by your role. What I liked about this challenge, which is almost like a monologue, is seeing people change their minds live and take the time to listen to each other’s divergent positions. Today, we are too often tempted to misunderstand what others tell us. It’s who will find the most allies, who will raise their voice the loudest. There is something avant-garde and optimistic about filming characters who listen to each other.

Each character represents an archetype. Salome (Claire Foy) wants to fight back, Oona (Rooney Mara) is undecided, Mariche (Jessie Buckley) fears breaking the status quo.

What the novel does so well is to show the multitude of different reactions to the same event. There is no one way to respond to trauma. The whole nuance of possible options is valid. At the heart of Women Talking is the idea of ​​radical democracy. In the same room, people come together to bring out a consensus. The question is not which system to destroy, but which system to rebuild. It is a profound paradigm shift. Take August, he’s a fair and sensitive man, he’s not an aggressor. He is the first stone of this new world. Moreover, the number of messages I received from spectators when the film was released overwhelmed me.

In 48 hours in Paris, three men have already asked me if I didn’t think feminism was going too far. I was speechless.

Sarah Polley

Claire Foy explained to us in an interview that Women Talking could not have seen the light of day without MeToo. Do you agree with him?

The book, published just after the first revelations about Harvey Weinsteinis inspired by a much earlier story that took place in the 2000s in a Mennonite community in Bolivia. Women Talking would have had a hard time finding funding before the release of women’s speech. VS’is a philosophical work that questions forgiveness and faith. With a timeless character. It is not insignificant if throughout the first part of the film, we hesitate on the moment when the action takes place. Are we in the XXIe century or in the 19the ? Then suddenly reality, the present arises and we understand that the facts denounced are very close to us. Abuse and complicity are still an integral part of our society. It remains to be seen how long the window of opportunity will remain open to bring to the screen these female narratives like Women Talking. The Conservative backlash we are facing concerns me. In 48 hours in Paris, three men have already asked me if I didn’t think feminism was going too far. I was speechless. Each burst of progress is followed by periods of retraction. No achievement is linear.

Sarah Polley at the Oscar nominees luncheon Abaca

You are one of the few directors to have made it to the Oscars this year. Women Talking is in the running for best film and best adaptation.

This was a huge surprise, given that we had drawn a blank all the way a few days beforeux English Oscars, the Bafta. I don’t know what my future projects will look like. I’ve been promoting the film for six months and I’m constantly on the go. women talking was a great collective and egoless experience. We had time on this set to get to know each other. I hope this can happen again.

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