Take This Waltz: Creating the Environment
When Margot (Michelle Williams), 28, meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), their chemistry is intense and immediate. But Margot suppresses her sudden attraction; she is happily married to Lou (Seth Rogen), a cookbook writer. When Margot learns that Daniel lives across the street from them, the certainty about her domestic life shatters. She and Daniel steal moments throughout the steaming Toronto summer, their eroticism heightened by their restraint. The film also stars Sarah Silverman.
Swelteringly hot, bright and colorful like a bowl of fruit, “Take This Waltz” leads us, laughing, through the familiar, but uncharted question of what long‐term relationships do to love, sex, and our images of ourselves.
The film was written and directed by Academy Award nominee Sarah Polley and produced by Susan Cavan and Sarah Polley. Filming took place in Toronto and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Polley’s pride for Toronto results in a romanticized vision of the city. In wanting to show her affection for the tree‐lined streets and downtown residential areas tucked in around neighborhood restaurants and cinemas, she placed the story right onto the sidewalks, streetcars and beaches which she walks every day. Cinematography was by Luc Montpellier, editing by Chris Donaldson, production design by Matthew Davies, music by Jonathan Goldsmith, and costume design by Lea Carlson.
Polley brought producer Susan Cavan and Luc Montpellier, her Director of Cinematography, with whom she worked on “Away From Her,” in after the first draft of the script. In many respects, “Take This Waltz” is a coming of age movie about a woman in her late 20s, for whom the veil concealing the reality of romance and relationships truly falls away, revealing an emptiness that cries out to be addressed.
The emotional reality of relationships is complicated by the pervasive happiness imperative that runs through our lives. Relationship guidelines abound in books, magazines and online, dictating the levels of happiness we should be experiencing with our partners: are your needs being met? Can you communicate? Do you still laugh? Do you still enjoy being alone with them? Can you still overlook minor annoyances?
In an effort to create a visual language for the film, Polley and Montpellier, with the contribution from a graphic artist, Jessica Reid, began trading images among themselves. All the creative and visual decisions came from the characters, an organic design strategy which is a function of bringing the creative team in early in the process. By using a tremendous saturation of color and working primarily with source light (sunlight) coming in through windows, intruding into interior spaces, which in turn would bounce off objects, floors and ceilings in frame and then washing over the actors, everything appears honest and true to itself instead of looking artificially lit.
Light and heat coming into Margot’s home and life is a metaphor for what takes place throughout the story and Montpellier strove to duplicate the poetry of the screenplay on the canvas of his cinematography. The backlighting of Lou during “The Storm” scene reflects the emotion of what is happening to Lou at that moment.
It was story, specifically the “Storm” scene which made Polley and Montpellier decide to shot the film digitally. This allowed them to let the camera roll for over two hours continuously. There’s an emotional response to images you get when you are able to film them at certain times of the day. Shooting at magic hour (a misnomer because this is the last 15 minutes of sunlight in a day, as well as the first 15 minutes in early morning) was something Polley wrote into the script. As the sun set on Margot’s marriage, it also rose on the potentially new relationship she had with Daniel.
As envisioned by Polley, the hero house in Toronto’s Little Portugal (which is the scripted neighborhood) is a fine example of real estate as biography, embodying the spirit of Queen West: a liberal, independent middle class couple would have bought the place when the market took a momentary downturn and then began extensive renovations which dragged on. Davies furnished the house with vintage pieces, re‐appropriated from other sources. The art on the living room wall, created specifically for the film, is a photographic triptych of seven graffiti artists (mostly kids from a city project) at one Toronto streetcar stop. This piece is made more significant as a result of the agenda of the new mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, who had that particular wall painted over a few months after the film was completed. This is also the same streetcar stop in the scene where Daniel, with his rickshaw, passes by Margot.
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