Take this Waltz: Interview with the Director
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. “Take this Waltz” leads us through the familiar but uncharted question of what long‐term relationships do to love, sex, and our images of ourselves.
Written and directed by Sarah Polley, the film stars Michelle Williams, Luke, Seth Rogen, and Sarah Silverman. The film is the second feature film from writer/director Polley, and is based on her screenplay which made the coveted Black List in 2009.
The Film’s Title, a Leonard Cohen Song
Polley: The lyrics are so tragic and romantic. You never completely understand it, but it makes perfect sense on some deep, emotional level. I listened to it non‐stop while writing the screenplay and it informed the tone of what I wanted to accomplish.
Themes in the Film
Polley: I wanted to make a film about desire, not a philosophical essay, but to be inside of it, to feel how delicious it is, and how difficult it is for us, as human beings, to either turn our backs on that sensation or to live with the primal gap it creates, one that needs to be fulfilled. I wanted to show the process of someone trying to escape that essential state of being and how it doesn’t always work.
Deconstructing the Fairy Tale
Polley: For women like Margot, and most women I know in their 30s, there is a point when they realize the “happily ever after” relationship fairytales they were told about as a child are not quite true. If you’re lucky, there is a great love, but apart from that, how do you know if a relationship is “wrong” or if needing/wanting/desire is a function of life being complicated? It’s not simple. You may be in a relationship where you are mostly happy, but also sad or angry ‐ and nothing prepares us for that
Relationships and Reality
Polley: I think we live in a culture where if there is something missing in a relationship, then there is something wrong. It can be fixed, we are told, and it’s a failure to not fix it…there are very few couples who are completely engaged and fascinated by each other years into their relationship. Once you know someone that well, it’s hard to have the space between you to be interested and excited by each other’s company.
Facing the Issues
Polley: [Rogen’s character] Lou has a belief that if you don’t address something head on with words, it has a chance of just going away. I understand why he wants to avoid conversations. From an outside perspective, it’s so obvious that talking about the problem would be the better thing to do, but in an intimate relationship, it’s the scariest thing in the world to admit that there might be something insurmountable there.
Polley: My wish is that throughout the film, people will not know what Margot should do and they’ll bring their own lives into the decision. There’s a tremendous amount of ambiguity in the film. For people who left a stagnant relationship and it was the right decision for them, I hope they’ll feel this film supports that. For those who have turned away from temptation, and stayed in a relationship, I hope this film will act as a confirmation that this was the right choice as well.
Complicated, Relatable Characters
Polley: We need. We want. And we desire. And that’s part of who we are. You get to the point you’ve been longing for and then, inevitably, another chasm opens up. I feel these characters are people who mean well and are doing their best, but their best sometimes isn’t good enough for the other characters ‐ the way it is in life as well.
Polley: I think Michelle is the greatest actor of her generation and that’s not a superlative. What I learned from working with her is the difference between good actors and great actors: great actors don’t just surprise their directors or their audience ‐ they surprise themselves. Something about their character blindsides them in the middle of a take and their performance spins off a bit in an incredible, unforeseen direction…Michelle has such wisdom about her, such poetry about her, it was hard to keep a character in the same place if it is Michelle who is playing her.
Polley: Seth is such an easy‐going person. I’ve never encountered anyone that comfortable in his own skin. He’s got this light touch about being in the world that I envy so much. He happens to be really funny, but everything I have seen him in, he has always done extraordinary acting. From the moment I wrote Lou, I always knew it was Seth.
Polley: Sarah Silverman is my favorite living performer and has been for years. You know the “If you could have dinner with one person in the world, who would that be?” question? For the last five years, the answer has always been Sarah Silverman. The moment her name was suggested by John Buchan, it was all hands on deck to get her. As much as I knew she was going to be fantastic in this part, nothing could have prepared me for how complicated and nuanced and strange and beautiful her work was. It was such a joy to watch her work.
Polley: Luke has played eccentric characters, but there is a striking purity and a kindness to him.
Polley: Life has fantastic moments of absolutes, moments where you believe absolutely something, and those moments should be really enjoyed. My general belief is that every decision is ambiguous and it is rare that a decision is clearly right or wrong. Sometimes it can feel that way and those are interesting moments that stand out for me. But I think we are all just muddling through. You never know how a decision will end up so you never know what the right one is. To me, the only real truth is in ambiguity.
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