Sarah Polley, Playing Sensitive Interrogator And Making A Masterpiece With Stories We Tell
What is the feeling when you are standing on set with an actress you have hired to play your own mom?
It makes you feel like youíre having a very expensive nervous breakdown and youíve involved way too many other people, like other people are being paid to help your nervous breakdown be more elaborate than it should be. Itís totally crazy. It felt like the most self-destructive, crazy nightmarish thing.
Did it ever feel good though, putting yourself in some scenes that you wouldnít have been in?
Not really. It felt really good when it was over. I have to say it was kind of like the best feeling in the world when it was over, like Iíll never stop feeling free and light as air. That feeling has extended itself for over a year now, just being so happy itís done.
You said that a critic had told you that your second film was going to be a disappointment, so you could do whatever you wanted. What is that sense of freedom on this, now youíve made not just your second film, but a third film thatís so personal.
I think in a way Iíve been mining the same territory in those three films and now Iím kind of free to do something totally else. The next film Iím going to make is Alias Grace, based on Margaret Atwoodís book. Itís such a departure and I think thatís sort of where I end up, somewhere totally new and talking about different things and whoís know if Iíll be good at that or not. I have no idea.
Itís very clear that each movie that you do, you pivot to something else to do something different. Take This Waltz and Away from Her are stylistically different even though the themes are the same. It seems like you do seek out a sharp difference from the last thing you did.
I think so. I think it will be many, many years before Iím an experienced enough filmmaker to have a very specific voice thatís recognizable and maybe Iíll never have that. Some of my favorite filmmakers donít have that all. So, yeah, I would hope that Iím sort of mining different territory now.
Do you feel like avoiding a specific voice keeps you from chasing other peoples' expectations?
Yeah and I also think that at some point youíll probably get tired of your voice even if itís a brilliant one. Even if you have a voice that other people donít tire of, youíll probably tire of your own, if itís not evolving and changing.
When people come up to you and say, ďYour films are about marriages.Ē Do you shirk from that?
Not at all because itís true, and itís like, I have lots of other ideas, I just donít go through with them, so there must be something about that subject matter thatís really important to me or unresolved or fascinating and I think there are. I think thatís just true. Thatís just fact. Thatís what Iíve been interested in more than anything.
Away from Her got this universal wave of praise, because it was your first film. Then Take This Waltz and then this too got very sharper conversations, like everybody talks about it in a very different way. Is that satisfying for you, like do you need to get away from everybody embracing something and fighting a little bit more?
Take This Waltz was a fantastic experience from that point of view, because people really saw such different films in that film.
Iíve gotten in a lot of fights about that movie.
People love it or hate it and I kind of agree with both of them. I mean, I see whatís good about it, but I also see what to hatable about it. Iím actually not sure as an audience member where I would have fallen on that debate if I hadnít made the film. I mean, I can completely see, the criticisms of that character that drive people crazy, I canít disagree with. I think what I disagree with in the criticisms is what my intentions were. I didnít intend for us to like her all of the time and I think that as a female filmmaker people assume that youíre on her side and youíre totally sympathetic. But people create unsympathetic male characters all the time and you donít think, ďOh, they were trying to get me to love him, but they failed." I do feel like there are issues people have with that film that I donít disagree with and yeah, I could think of defenses for them, for sure, but I donít feel that passionate about needing to.
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