It was just a few days after director Sofia Coppola became the second woman to win best director at Cannes, that we were invited to screen the The Beguiled.
This latest picture earned her the prestigious director award. The story Is about a group of confederate women in an all-girls school who take in an injured Union soldier (Colin Farrell) during the Civil War. Coppola examines the complexities of these women building a new life after the past one was shattered. Through her ensemble, including Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning alongside a few young newcomers, we get a stirring tale that’s filled with intrigue. It’s no wonder she took away the award with this film.
After we screened the film, Dunst shared with us how she was hanging on to every bit of news regarding Cannes, celebrating as soon as she heard the news, and reaching out to Coppola who couldn’t have been farther from the glitzy film arena. She said, “ It was so funny. She was at Coney Island with her kids. I was in Florence, and I pulled it up on the computer to watch. I was like toasting with champagne, and she’s in Coney Island. That’s Sofia.”
Coppola jumped in, “She sent me a picture of her watching it too, with champagne. I’m like, ‘I’m at Coney Island having hot dogs.’ “ She said of finding out the news while on mom duty. “ But then when I got home, I had champagne with Sarah, our editor, and Stacey, our costume designer, and we had so many great women working on this, and so we celebrated.”
The women in this film are fashioning this new world for themselves, something we don’t often see in film and the majority of literature. One of the tales that comes to mind is Lord of the Flies in how it takes a group of people no longer under the societal constraints of the past, and digs deep into how restructuring happens, or doesn’t when humanity resorts to their base instincts. We mentioned to Coppola how we typically get these stories like LOTF being told through a masculine point of view but Beguiled offers a lens change through these women. In response to being asked how she approached capturing the interactions of the women within the frame of the film, Coppola totally vibed with the comparison, “That’s so weird. I watched “Lord of the Flies” as a reference for this movie. Yeah, I mean I definitely I think there’s a hierarchy with women, and especially Elle and the group together.”
We pointed out how as women in the audience we loved seeing how a lot was communicated through looks, even to other women not in the frame. That choice was definitely something the director cared to hold important, “When I see that, like with sister-in-laws, you know, there’s always like power dynamics and all of that. So I think whenever there’s a group of women there are certain dynamics of a group, especially with women. And I was more interested in that. I feel like men communicate verbally and physically, but women, they say so much I think through a glance or their tone and some women will like give you like a glance or tone and a guy will be like, “What, she didn’t say anything. Like you read in so much to it.” So like I love the way women communicate in that way that only other women understand and the story was so right for all those glances and moments and wanted to try to show that.”
Both Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning have been in the spotlight from a young age and have come up working with women behind the camera, when asked if this was a conscious choice they praised the women they’ve worked with. Dunst responded, “I did Little Women and I worked with Sophia when I was 16 so I’ve always had that opportunity. Like Bring It On. I’ve always wanted to work with other women. So I think it’s kind of like–however you navigate your own career and your taste level and what you want to surround yourself with I think comes through in your career and it wasn’t new to me and I just had the best time.
Fanning agreed, “Yeah, I hadn’t really thought about it, but the last three movies that I’ve done have all been with women directors. Sofia and then Melanie Laurent and then Reed Morano, all three women directors. But I didn’t necessarily choose it specifically because of that, it just turned out that way that they were making those stories and but it was, it was really exciting.”
As a director Coppola masterfully switches lens between her ensemble of women giving us their shifting perspectives in the wake of warfare. Hoping to draw attention to the need for more inclusion of different points of view as a whole and not wanting to misrepresent others, she said of her work, “I’m interested in stories that have a female point of view. We’re half the population so I’m happy to put that out there. And more and more you want different points of views out there and showing complex female characters that we can relate to.”
See the shocking twists and turns of the film when these amazingly talented women hit the screen in The Beguiled, opening in NY and LA June 23rd and wide on June 30th!
We were invited to attending The Beguiled screening/junket for editorial purposes. Photos courtesy of Focus Features.