Having debuted at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival as the Opening Night Film, Bart Freundlich’s new film After the Wedding, a remake of Susanne Bier’s highly-acclaimed film of the same name, is making its way to theaters this weekend. Starring an all-star cast including Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, and Billy Crudup, the film is about the director of an orphanage in India who travels to New York City to secure a donation from a potential benefactor, only to discover that they may have more in common than she expected.
POPAXIOM got the opportunity to speak with Bart Freundlich, writer and director of After the Wedding, about his film. After the Wedding opens in theaters on August 9. You can read POPAXIOM’s review here.
On Making The Film Stand Out
POPAXIOM: Your film is a remake of the acclaimed film by Susanne Bier. How intimidating was it to live up to that high standard?
Freundlich: Well, it wasn’t exactly intimidating, but it was more that I wanted to be very careful not to diminish her work. I’m such a fan of hers as a director, particularly her raw emotional style and her originality. I just didn’t want to feel that I was going to do what she had already done, not as well. So I needed a reason, something that could kind of ignite it, and give me a way in for it to be my own, and that came through the gender swap. Because as we changed her three leads to two women and one man, these other backstories that were very different from the backstories in her film opened up. And that gave me my way in.
POPAXIOM: It really isn’t often that an independent film gets released with two such powerful and highly-acclaimed actresses as the leads. How do you think this is important in an era of increasing representation?
Freundlich: In just the obvious way, it was this myth that people only wanted to see a certain kind of people in their stories, that they didn’t want to see diversity in leads in movies. And I think it was like a self-perpetuated myth. I feel lucky that that is being broken because it gives me as a writer and as a storyteller so much possibility to find stories that haven’t been explored and to work with actors the caliber of Julianne [Moore] and Michelle [Williams]. Because there wasn’t a ton of opportunity to put two women in lead roles without it being like the highlight story of the film and the film’s release, I feel like there are these untapped stories that people like me get to explore now. And I think that, in general, I’m thinking about things in a very human way, not about are you a woman or a man, or where you’re from, or what you look like. It helps to highlight our common humanity.
On Shooting The Film
POPAXIOM: What were some of the obstacles you faced while shooting on location in India?
Freundlich: The main obstacle was not necessarily speaking the language of a lot of the crew. And the heat. All the practicalities. Being in a foreign place where you felt a little bit off your game. But also those obstacles became the things that were sort-of the strong points. It made me feel, and I think it made Michelle [Williams] feel very alive to be there. It was like you’re walking into your own movie. You’re surrounded by this environment and these people and this orphanage that we built. And there’s challenges communicating, but at the same time, all of those challenges feel like they would be real challenges for her character. What was challenging also really worked in our favor.
POPAXIOM: Your DP Julio Macat did a wonderful job. How did you work with him to create the beautiful look of the film?
Freundlich: Thank you. Julio is an old friend of mine, we shot a movie called Catch that Kid together, which was another Danish remake, oddly. He’s very experienced. What he and I discussed was the necessity in our film of having an objective camera that didn’t say too much because the story is so heightened. So many secrets are revealed, it’s such a melodrama. It felt like anything that said too much camera-wise would potentially push it over the top to feeling maudlin. So Julio was able to kind-of paint these beautiful frames and ended up using the ARRI 65, which is the camera Alfonso Cuarón shot Roma with. It’s a large format, but instead of using it for these big landscapes, we really used it for people’s faces. And we talked about kind-of treating the faces as if they were landscapes, lingering on them and really allowing you the time with these giant images of these amazing actors to process and make up and imagine what’s going on inside. And the other thing that he did that I just loved was this format allowed us to use very selective focus. So instead of using push-ins and cranes and all that, we ended up just using selective focus, especially at the wedding, to let you know who to pay attention to, but without it saying too much. He was a true partner on the movie.
On What People Can Learn From This Story
POPAXIOM: One of the main themes in the film is family. What do you hope that people will learn about the importance of family from your film?
Freundlich: Well, I think a lot of times life is so busy. I think that family is important, very important to everyone, but I know that sometimes it can be taken for granted. And as far as I know, you can’t go backwards in time. So I think that being able to truly spend every day in gratitude for those deep, deep, irreplaceable connections that we have with our families would be the most positive thing that you could take away from a film like this. To live every day to the fullest and to be able to express the value of those connections to those people.
POPAXIOM: One quote that stood out in the film is, “Is it us running through the world, or the world running past us?” What does this mean to you?
Freundlich: I’m glad. I was inspired by something that I had read that was a Billy Collins poem that had mentioned “What’s your perspective on are we really moving through the world and experiencing it that way, or are we kind of standing still and the world’s rotating around us.” And I just loved it. In context of our movie, what it meant to me was that Oscar was this deep, existential thinker, he’s this guy who contemplates this kind of stuff that’s very impractical but very deep, and then Theresa’s a very, very different kind of character. She’s someone who is very practical and straightforward-thinking. But the fact that she picks up on and appreciates what he said to her at that moment, to me, shows where they meet as a couple, this softening and this very, very deep human connection they have as two people who love each other and have spent their lives together.
POPAXIOM: Why do you think it is so important that English-speaking audiences hear this story?
Freundlich: Well, I think what’s beautiful about it is the complex humanity, particularly that no one in the story is a hero and no one is a villain. You know, these are people who made choices in their life and those choices have consequences. And now those consequences are coming to bear. So I feel like not only is it very life-affirming in ways, but I think it’s a reflection of reality, which is that our choices have consequences, but there’s not necessarily people that are just good and bad in the world. And thinking in that way promotes compassion. So I don’t know if I would say that it’s important, but I think that it could be valuable.
Be sure to go see After the Wedding in theaters beginning August 9!