Sarah Polley’s journey from child star to feminist author – The New Yorker | Episode Movies

Much of Women Talking unfolds as a sort of sophisticated seminar, presenting theoretical debates about individual guilt and systemic injustice in the dramatic setting of a clandestine meeting. Arguments recur and are chewed through in a way more often seen on stage than screen. “Inevitably, it’s going to feel theatrical at times,” Polley told me. “I didn’t want to shy away from that. But I wanted to give him that canvas where he breathes.” Although the camera is primarily focused on the faces of the women in the hayloft, a poignant discussion is accompanied by a poignant sequence of close-ups of the teens in the community: Are they from the ruthless Her elders’ misogyny so perverted? they cannot be taken physically or mentally into the future of women?

Given the challenging questions the film raises about the possibility of peace and cooperation between the sexes, Luc Montpellier, cinematographer on Away From Her and Take This Waltz, wondered if he should take a step back this time. He told me, “I thought maybe it’s better through a camerawoman’s lens. Many of Sarah’s male associates felt the same way.” However, Polley felt that excluding her male colleagues went against the spirit of the narrative. The goal of women is not to create a society from which men are permanently banished, but rather to develop a way of life in which all members of the community can thrive. Montpellier continued, “Sarah said something simple to me – what the film is about Everyone, not just women. It’s about how we treat each other.” However, Montpellier urged the male members of his crew to refrain from exercising knee-jerk control – just as the film’s sensitive teacher August Epp must be urged to rein in his own opinion. “I told them, ‘Our job on this film is, first and foremost, to listen,'” Montpellier said.

Polley and the producers stuck to their agreement on filming hours – to the last crunch, she and the other parents in the cast and crew were always home for bathing. The hayloft was recreated on a Toronto sound stage and the set was surrounded by giant blue screens onto which Montpellier’s exterior shots could be mounted. Rooney Mara’s little son was in the studio every day; She often groomed him between setups. “That was a great energy transition,” said Mara. “There’s nothing like a baby to bring you out of the darkness of some of the things we’ve talked about.”

Claire Foy told me that despite the supportive atmosphere, the work was heartbreaking. “It’s very rare that you’re in a scene where Everyone is emotionally tense,” she noted. “Quite often one person has some sort of episode and everyone else is gathered around them. But all of our characters had to discuss, confront, or think about something, which is deeply traumatizing.” In one scene, Foy’s character declares her willingness to dismember the men who raped her young daughter. “If I stay, I’ll become a murderer,” she says, horrified. To help the cast and crew navigate this raw material, the production team hired a clinical psychologist, Lori Haskell, who was available for private consultations. Haskell told me that on the day the scene with Foy was shot, she said to Polley, “This is going to cause so much heartache because it’s a sexual violation. But when people are really sad, it’s about not being protected: “There was no one there for me.” So if you hear someone say, “I would do that to protect my child” — for people who are haven’t received protection, that comes up Wave of pain and sorrow.”

Nearly twenty years ago, Polley considered making a documentary about former child actors and interviewed several adults who, like her, were stars in elementary school. In 2011, Polley told me, “My memory – and it’s a real memory – is that as a little, little kid I was dying to do it and my parents were jaded by the industry and they knew better and resisted I had a will of steel and I pushed myself into it.” All of her interviewees told the same story, she explained. “There isn’t a single child actor that you will meet who will say, ‘My parents pushed me into this’ – even if they were they have horrible stories about their parents being stage parents. Shirley Temple who started when she was a small child, insisted that she interfere here. I honestly don’t think so. And if I don’t believe their stories, why do I believe my own?”

In fact, Polley’s family history belies the notion that she chose to act professionally. John Buchan, Polley’s brother, the second of two children from Diane Polley’s first marriage, told me, “That was us Everyone child actor. We can all find pictures of ourselves with our name and eye color written on the back and a phone number.” Buchan has done some television work, as has her sister Joanna and brother Mark. “But she hit the big time in Sarah,” Buchan said.

Polley began acting at the age of five, appearing in a live-action Disney film, One Magic Christmas. She was subsequently cast in many television roles, including as Ramona Quimby in a series adapted from Beverly Cleary’s novels. In 1988, when Polley was nine, she played Sally Salt, the diminutive sidekick of the anti-hero of the same name in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, a madcap spectacle written and directed by Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame. Gilliam was an idol to Polley’s parents – particularly her father Michael, who was born and raised in England.

“You’re kidding – you’re building a tiny house with no storage space under the bed?!”

Cartoon by Lars Kenseth

Most of the shooting took place at the Cinecittà Studios in Rome. Polley has happy memories of the city: she and her parents ate dinner every night in Campo de’ Fiori, where she sometimes performed for tourists with a band of itinerant musicians. However, the set was often messy — and scary for a kid. In one scene, she had to run through a model of a war-torn city when bombs exploded. The first shot was frightening enough to convince Polley that the detonations had gone wrong; She ran right into the camera and ruined the shot. By the second take, she was so scared that she ran too fast, making the scene useless again. In Mad Genius, an essay in her book, she writes, “I sobbed between takes in my father’s arms, begging him to step in to make sure I never had to do it again. But when an assistant director came to say they needed another take, my father said with sincere regret, “I’m afraid you’ll have to do it again, dear. I am sorry. I can not do anything about that.’ (Gilliam said so, while the set felt dangerous, it wasn’t.)

During her career as a child actress, there were moments when adults not only overlooked her vulnerability, but seemed to cynically exploit it. Polley had only recently begun work on Avonlea when her mother died – a tragedy she says she was completely unprepared for. (In her memoir, Polley writes with honest confidence about the satisfaction she felt in being the pitiful child of a mother with cancer, while at the same time being certain that her mother would recover.) During the show’s second season, Polley, who played a character named Sara Stanley was presented with a scripted monologue in which her character weeps over the death of her mother; Not surprisingly, she gave an absolutely convincing performance. But the experience of this and other scenes in which her character resembled her mother thwarted Polley’s ability to grieve. “Because some of the first tears I shed over my mother’s death after the day she died were for a performance, I couldn’t shed true tears of grief for years,” she writes. In the aggressively sane world of Avonlea, directed by Disney, Sara Stanley appears uniquely sad, gaunt, and complicated.

Polley’s account of her life as a child actress — how she was locked into extended contracts, worked “staggeringly long” hours, and was indebted to adults she didn’t want to disappoint — raises troubling questions about the ethics of letting children act for commercial gain. Polley’s experience also underscores the fact that a child’s sense of will—both in the moment and in hindsight—can be an expression of the sublimated desires of parents or other authority figures whom the child is desperate to please. (Family, no less than patriarchy, involves a structural imbalance of autonomy.) When Polley meets stage parents who insist their child want to perform, she replies, “Yes—and a lot of kids want to be firefighters and doctors too. But they must wait until they are no longer children to take on the pressures and responsibilities of adult work.”

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