How the cinematography of “Women Talking” plays with time

Sarah Polley’s Women Talking focuses on the eponymous women who, as cinematographer Luc Montpellier says, are “in the process of dismantling an old world that has been part of her life all her life”.

In the film, a cast of actors led by Rooney Mara, Claire Foy and Jessie Buckley discuss the sexual
and physical trauma inflicted on all women of their isolated religious community and the difficult choices and decisions it took to build a new life outside of that community. It all takes place while their husbands are in town. It usually unfolds in a barn attic. “It was important that the visuals in the film reflect the weight of this seemingly impossible decision, all the decisions we made had to reflect that,” says Montpellier.

Visually, Polley and Montpellier chose to show scenes that were non-judgmental, but, he adds, “we weren’t afraid to present the audience with images that would draw you into the feelings of these women.”

A goth-inspired color palette would make the audience feel a conflict between this oppressive community and the oppression women had experienced. Montpellier says, “We wanted to shift the audience from those very intense dialogue scenes to the landscape outside and the children playing [outside] so that you are constantly reminded of it [that] that is what is at stake.”

The moments of silence, he says, served to allow the audience to experience what they were seeing. “The entire film is designed to visually challenge your ideas,” says Montpellier.

One factor Montpellier had to consider was conveying the idea of ​​a ticking clock, as wives did not know when their husbands would return and discover their conspiracy. “I had the light shifting subtle throughout the film so subconsciously you felt like the days were running out
that they could arrive at any moment,” he says.

Before what Montpellier calls the “visual climax,” the women sing a hymn-like song.

“Even though the day is done, they are taking this moment to tend to what matters most to them, which is this child who needs comforting. This is the shot of the sun setting right behind us in real time as our little girl falls asleep. For me there was no better way to play with the time and with this beautiful moment.”

He adds: “Below all of this is this imminent return of men.” How the cinematography of “Women Talking” plays with time

Charles Jones

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