Bart Freundlich talks 'After The Wedding'

Today is the release of Bart Freundlich’s ‘After The Wedding’ starring Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams, as well as Billy Crudup and Abby Quinn. Freundlich’s film had its World Premiere at Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, this year (2019) and stunned everyone with its adaption from Susanne Bier’s original film named ‘Efter Brylluppet’ (2006).

Our Editor In Chief Ali Armian took a moment to speak with Bart Freundlich over the phone to discuss his new film:

Ali Armian: "When you first got given ‘After The Wedding’ did you speak to Susanne Bier prior to adapting her film and What did she discuss about her initial thoughts, and specificity with story visuals and anything else?"

Bart Freundlich: "You know, believe it or not, she and I had never spoken. But, I know she really likes our movie. Part of that was such a long journey, the remake of this took so long to come together that I think she just stayed in her own court whilst she was making other films and decided to let this be. I can also only imagine how weird it is to have somebody make your film. I thought a lot about that as I was doing this and wanting to do justice to this emotional tapestry that she had created."

"So, I thought this was ideal actually, I got to use her film as the guide and we didn’t have any personal connection so I got to pay attention to the actual work rather than having to have her deal with whatever my personal feelings were that I had or her personal feelings. Her work is really so strong that it was able to act as my guide and once we wrote the script I know that she did read it and approved it. And, once we made the film she had apparently liked it."

Ali Armian: "One of the things you’ve spoken about before, is that you spoken with the producers (Julie) about the idea of a gender swap happening. What did Susanne think of that idea?"

Bart Freundlich: "I know that she was told through her producers about our intention, so that the last thing we would ever want to do is to make a film that she didn’t approve the basic concept of. But, I don’t know the whole truth. I always imagined that she made her film and that was kind of over. When she decided to option her movie to someone else, well you sort of have to let go of it in a sense. You hope that the people you pay too option your movie and your idea have done it for the right reasons because they loved it and are going to build upon things that you care about and I think we did. That’s the good news!"

"I think she understands like a lot of us filmmakers, we try to make your movie and move on to the next project, which she clearly did, because she’s made many movies (laughs)."

Ali Armian: Julie said she, ‘found it inspirational for the gender swap. But so many things had to be changed for the genders to work’. What were those elements that needed to be changed and what did she find inside Theresa that she wanted to make her own?

Bart Freundlich: Well she and I have watched the movie together having not seen it before this producer Joel Michaels offered it to me and it wasn’t that Julie wanted to play the role as much as she really admired how explosive and unapologetic and how best the acting was. So we kind of discussed within a more general way about her appreciation for that and she did say “I’d love to play a character like that’ meaning someday. (laughs). Not, not in this incarnation, not in a reinvention of the film, but I was having a lot of trouble finding a reason to remake the movie because Susanne did such a good job, it was so complete. I couldn’t find anything I could add to it. Nothing significant I could add to it or worthwhile for me was the world."

"What I was discussing, what Julie had seen in the characters with some producers they said basically try to write it with the gender swap. Frankly it was going to seem kind of a fools errand because it seemed like there was going to be narratives pulling itself to create stumbling blocks that were not going to be recovered from, but what ended up happening was the recreation the way in which i solved this problem particularly just the difference between being a woman and a man and having a baby if you’re a man you can not know you had a child and if you're a woman you HAVE to know."

"Particularly the way I solved that particular problem just reinvented the narrative just enough that it gave its own reason to exist and it also gave these two very very fully formed complex roles to two women and to watch them not be total adversaries but also come from very different philosophical and experiential places in their lives, which is sort of unusual for a film. I thought. We weren’t saying we were making a woman’s film we are saying we are making a very complex subtle dramatic story and it happens at two women who are at the core of it."

On Cinematography: "I got to just got to hang the camera on them and watch was going on behind in their eyes and that was very important for a movie" says, Bart Freundlich.

Ali Armian: "With Cinematography you mention that Susanne’s movie has a dogma style and there’s lots of handheld moments. But did you want to handle it with a classical story style that felt objective?"

Bart Freundlich: "Yes! No Question. I felt like the biggest challenge for me with the film was tone. Because it is a melodrama and it is designed to be a melodrama. And, I felt like Susanne tackled that with this sort of very cinema and very ragged style of camera work that was very immediate. I wanted to tell it in a classical way that allowed you to experience these characters and their biographies without having to guide you too much as a filmmaker on where you was supposed to pay attention or what the big moments are. There are so many huge twists and turns that it felt like with one wrong move you could push it over the top and I just wanted to avoid that. Frankly, I also wanted to give its own reason to exist in a filmic way."

"So with a cinematographer I spoke to before we just talked a lot about allowing the camera to observe and we also shot the film with the ALEXIS 65 which is this same camera that Alfonso Cuarón shot Roma on and it’s kind of designed as a 70mm camera to show these huge landscapes but we used it … our theory was to use it to show the landscape of the face. Instead there was so much emotion I got so fortunate with these actors to have people to share such detail in their lives. That I got to just got to hang the camera on them and watch was going on behind in their eyes and that was very important for a movie also it had to articulate so much exposition (laughs) at the same time to be able to balance out what is said and not said."

The film is released today in UK Cinemas. Make sure you go see it!

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Interview by: Ali Armian.