I feel emotional watching in 'Ammonite' heterosexual couple's equal and grounded intimate relationships: Kate Winslet
#Ammonite; #HeterosexualCouple; #19thCenturyEnglnad; #IntimateRelationship
Toronto, Oct 9 (Canadian-Media): During one of the conversations series organized by the 45th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2020 held at Toronto, Joana Vicente, Executive director and co-head of TIFF discusses the film 'Ammonite' with Francis Lee, director of the film, starring Kate Winslet, recipient of the TIFF 2020 Tribute Actor Award, and Saoirse Ronan, four-time Oscar nominee.
Image: Ammonite. Image credit: TIFF
Canadian-Media's editor and director Asha Bajaj brings excerpts:
1. Joana (J) – Francis (F): How did you come to know about Mary Anning and her real life that inspired you to write this story?
F: I started reading about Mary’s life after her name appeared several times on the internet while I was looking for a gift for my ex-boyfriend. I became obsessed with her class. gender and landscape. Born in poverty, with no formal education, she rose to be a leading paleontologist making incredible scientific discoveries in 19th century England’s patriarchal and class-driven society. I also discovered Mary's several passionate, emotional love letters written to her female friends. Being ambitious to explore same-sex relationships between the patriarchal class-driven society and Mary, who had been either totally overlooked by men or used by men for her scientific discoveries, I wanted to uplift her to a respectful status by giving her a deserving relationship with a woman.
2. J – Kate (K): Your performance is both beautiful and powerful. How did you approach the character of Mary who was so brilliant, yet struggled with the constraints of being a woman and a scientist in the 19th century England?
K: Women's purpose at that time was to only get married to a man in order to have a life and a livelihood. Being poor, Mary did not marry a man in order to lift herself out of poverty. She continued to do fossil hunting taught by her father and felt that by doing this work she was honoring her father’s memory who was long dead. Not accepted by society, and left to work alone led people to believe she was rebellious or demonstrative. I approached the situation by learning fossil hunting for about a month by working with paleontologists and also got arts training from artists since Mary was a good artist.
My most challenging part was embracing Mary’s stillness. Being an animated person, I had to train myself from not moving all the time. Like Mary, I also had to keep myself aloof. The daily routine I followed was to go home, make soups, write and work scenes for the next day, and go to bed until the routine became anchored in me which helped me to stay rooted in Mary. It also reduced my anxiety and nervousness about enacting same-sex relationships every day or being panicked thinking about people’s reactions to my accent and to my role. I kept reassuring myself that the things I had planned to do and discuss with Francis would hopefully underpin me throughout. Finally, when Ronan and I started real rehearsals, it was clear that our collaboration would be fun, and rewarding. Having met before and been familiar with each other’s way of working, building our friendship was quite seamless.
3. J – Ronan ( R ): You play a beautiful performance of geologist Martienssen like a real person. What was your approach to this role?
R: It progressed through preparation when Francis and I started talking once or twice a week a month about our relationships, enabling us to take a dip into Mary (played by Kate)'s every-day life. It was important to remember that this was just an imagined version of these people's original stories and their lives and we were giving it a life of its own. I started keeping a diary of Kate, writing down various simple facts like her relationships with family and friends so that when we started rehearsals, we already knew Mary well. Kate and Francis laid more emphasis on my role which built her up.
4. J – F: Would you like to talk a little about your process of working with your actors? I know that you did a long rehearsal.
F: Being blessed with Kate and Ronan for their commitment by starting to work about 4 months before the shoot, trying to explore every single minute detail about Mary. Kate believed that physical work was important to enable characters to inhabit their world, and committed herself to go to cold and wet beaches, climb up cliffs, and to do fossil hunting. Kate and Ronan had to learn to play the piano, to do tiny stitches under candlelight, not because I wanted them to do more work but I think these activities alter them and help them in embodying the characters emotionally, intellectually, and physically. Our efforts were to elevate these women, give them the status that they should have had when they were alive.
K: Climbing cliffs and going to cold beaches did not matter. What terrified me most was enacting delicately constructed same-sex relationships with Ronan every day. But I was most impressed when All three of us, me, Ronan, and Francis are part of a big important change and believe that more such stories should be filmed.
R: I actually felt safe in that environment as well and comfortable because I was with someone that I totally trusted.
K: Although both Ronan and I enjoyed the whole experience, it made me emotional and I questioned myself how I allowed myself to be steered by writing in the past when I had been a part of something that has been a male and female relationship. It made me feel mad at myself. Have I done that? I am used to speaking for myself. I am strong. But things tend to automatically happen in writing about a heterosexual couple in intimate relationships. There was so much equal about this that it made me feel emotional.
Ammonite Interview: Screenshot