Critically acclaimed director Rebecca Miller returns she came to me after a break of almost six years. In her latest work, Miller dealt with the struggle of the brilliant opera composer Steven, who deals with writer’s block. Steven’s wife Patricia (portrayed by Anne Hathaway) is also his therapist, but Patricia might be hiding something, even from herself. she came to me was selected to open this year’s Berlin Film Festival. The cast includes Peter Dinklage, Marisa Tomei, Joanna Kulig and Brian d’Arcy James. Shortly after the film premiered, ComingSoon spoke with Miller and Hathaway about the relationship between art and life, the place of religion in our society, and more.
“The delightful comedy about love in all its forms weaves together the stories of a charming cast of characters who live in the romantic, bustling metropolis of New York City. Composer Steven Lauddem (Dinklage) is creatively stalled and unable to complete the score for his major comeback opera. At the behest of his wife Patricia (Hathaway), his former therapist, he embarks on a search for inspiration. What he discovers is much more than he expected or imagined.”
Tudor Leonte: Rebecca, I want to start with you. At the heart of She Came to Me is love, a theme your story has explored through different characters and in different ways. I really appreciated the game-within-a-game tool, it really is Shakespeare. My question to you here is: is art immediate life or does life imitate art?
Rebekah Mueller: Well, I think that’s actually an interesting question. I think that art always feeds on life and cannot live without life, because what have we as artists but to take life and build on it? I mean, even if you’re an abstract painter, you’re still synthesizing color and light, right? There is an inevitable connection between art and life. I also think that art is a constant influence on life. I think that’s why it’s important to decide what to bring into the world.
Anne, your character, Patricia, helps other people address their issues, but there were a few moments in the film where I thought, ‘Where’s your therapist?’ Her character looks very strong on the outside, but at the same time she is very vulnerable. Where does her vulnerability come from?
Anne Hathaway: My understanding of Patricia is that at a very young age she was given an identity with tremendous responsibility that she didn’t really choose for herself, but she accepted it and she accepted it with grace, brilliance and love. She did something almost unthinkable, which was to become a doctor as a young mother. It’s such an exception in the way this story unfolds, which I think the film shows beautifully. That she was able to do this was a stroke of luck in the form of an enchanting grandmother who supported her. This way she could do it. She feels so grateful for her happiness that she has never really asked herself what her needs are. She was afraid to ask herself what her wants and needs are because she feels she has received so much more than she had a right to expect.
But the fact of the matter is, she’s human, and her true self is knocking, and it’s getting louder and louder and louder until she can’t ignore it anymore. Then she comes to the revelation that maybe she lied about her life. Maybe she lied to herself about who she is. By simply allowing herself to stop lying to herself and others, a whole new version of herself opens up. To me, all of those things are vulnerable and her amazing ability to listen to herself and others and live in a world in which she doesn’t harm others or do others wrong, but is open and curious about what will happen next. This is very vulnerable.
Rebecca, where did you get the inspiration for this story from? Have you ever dealt with writer’s block?
miller: I did, yes, and it’s absolutely terrifying. I mean, when you really have it, it’s like being locked in a coffin.
Hathaway: Oh no!
miller: That’s the way it is. It’s terrible. Oh, when you’re used to living in a kind of garden with lots of little flowers growing around, and then all of a sudden the flowers disappear, there’s nothing.
miller: It’s very frightening. One of my favorite moments in the movie is when you first see Steven at the piano and he looks so lost behind his glasses, this kind of fear on his face of just not being able to…like he says, “I can.” I can’t get in.” You know, it’s like you’re locked out, you’re locked out of paradise.
That moment of ecstatic revelation that Patricia has in church. Where does it stand in a society that is becoming increasingly alienated from religion in general and from man’s relationship to God and religion?
Hathaway: Well I think the movie says it when she goes to church and she’s the only person there. We live in an increasingly secular society, and yet it’s not as if our souls are gone. I think we all yearn for our connection to something bigger than ourselves. It’s very interesting because we talk about mental health and we talk about physical health, but we don’t often talk about our spiritual health. This is Patricia, this is kind of where she’s at in the modern world, a bit of a pioneer in the sense that she’s allowing her to be a possibility and she’s boldly moving towards it.
miller: It’s radical.
Hathaway: Yes. There’s, there’s a radical streak in her, and maybe she’s radical in a way that would have been very traditional a hundred years ago, but I guess that’s life. The times have changed!
Rebecca, you relied on the pillarbox format at times in the film. What does it stand for? The frame almost seems to suffocate the characters, but at the same time it forces them to stay closer to each other.
Miller: Yes. Well, the inside of a tugboat is so small that there’s a natural desire to have a more square format. Honestly, that’s part of what was going on. There’s also a sense that these two characters, Steven and Katrina, are very familiar. There’s this sense of equality that Peter’s character can’t get away from intimacy that makes him so uncomfortable. When you come to opera, you want that widescreen breathing feel, and I was just like, ‘Well, let’s just edit it together.’ I think part of the movie is about the power of imagination, right? I wanted to honor the audience for allowing their imaginations to expand to understand and digest the fact that there were two different aspect ratios in the film. I think people can do that.
https://www.comingsoon.net/movies/features/1269355-she-came-to-me-interview-rebecca-miller-anne-hathaway Rebecca Miller & Anne Hathaway