EPO is pleased to be among the first websites (perhaps even the first one at all) to provide you with brand new insights including facts and quotes relating to Patricia Rozema's »Into the Forest«
, as a prelude to the upcoming world premiere at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival
in September. Read on to find out what the post-apocalyptic tale and its production is all about! (no spoilers included)
In the not-too-distant future, two ambitious young women, Nell and Eva, live with their father in a lovely but run-down home up in the mountains somewhere on the West Coast. Suddenly the power goes out; no one knows why. No electricity, no gasoline. Their solar power system isn't working. Over the following days, the radio reports a thousand theories: technical breakdowns, terrorism, disease and uncontrolled violence across the continent.
Then, one day, the radio stops broadcasting. Absolute silence.
Step by ominous step, everything that Nell, a would-be academic, and Eva, a hard working contemporary dancer, have come to rely on is stripped away: parental protection, information, food, safety, friends, lovers, music - all gone. They are faced with a world where rumor is the only guide, trust is a scarce commodity, gas is king and loneliness is excruciating.
To battle starvation, invasion and despair, Nell and Eva fall deeper into a primitive life that tests their endurance and bond. Ultimately, the sisters must work together to survive and learn to discover what the earth will provide. They find comfort in cherishing the memories of the happy family life they once shared. The natural world, art & memory sustain them. But for how long?
Into the Forest, a raw and elegant "realistic fable," explores the beauty that can come of painful beginnings, the denial we resort to in a world come unhinged and the strength that we find when our plans for our lives have been obliterated.
About the film
While spending time in her native town of Halifax, Nova Scotia a few years ago — Ellen Page visited one of her favorite bookstores where a friendly clerk recommended Jean Hegland's book Into the Forest. Page instantly felt the story would make for an incredible film. "The book was so beautifully written, compelling, suspenseful and deeply, deeply emotional that I thought it would be something that I'd really like to see on film," said Page. With that in mind, Page went to work with executive producer Kelly Bush Novak on securing the rights to the novel and presenting their vision for the feature film adaptation to Hegland. With Hegland on board and the rights secured, Sriram Das and Das Films were brought on to help develop Page's passion project.
From there Page sought out writer/director Patricia Rozema who found the story equally moving and immediately signed on to the project. Rozema adapted the novel quickly which allowed the filmmakers to charge ahead with the project. "It was one of these dream scenarios where it's not years and years of preparin — it just had a kind of special force right from the beginning," said Rozema. "Although producers Kelly Bush Novak, Niv Fichman, and Aaron Gilbert have all been incredibly helpful — creatively, it was Ellen who was integral to developing this film." The film marks Page's first producorial venture, and beyond development, Page has been hands-on in post-production. "During the actual process of shooting, Ellen really wanted to concentrate on her performance and put her trust in Aaron Gilbert and myself," said Fichman. "But in completing the film, she has very much been a force in terms of the direction of the editing, and in shaping the release of the film."
Into the Forest steers away from fantastical or science fiction devices and offers a more unsettling and realistic vision of the future. "It's a piece of speculative fiction about survival," says Rozema. Despite it's haunting atmosphere, she hopes audiences come away from the movie with a feeling of comfort. "Even if the worst happens, short of death, if your head is in the right place, you can survive," says Rozema. "I wanted to convey the fact that information would be the hardest thing to find and the hardest thing to live without. The fact that rumors would be all you have when all forms of energy are gone, would be very difficult for me and for most of us. It's more character-based and psychologically motivated than most post-apocalyptic stories." She adds: "Not to get too grand about it, I have thought that it's also about the Buddhist concept of detachment, of letting go." Wood also views the film as a sort of cautionary tale. "I think a lot of the things in this film aren't too far off from where we're headed, which is a scary thought," said Wood. "The film underscores the importance of not taking things for granted, and pushes the audience to hopefully reexamine themselves and how they relate to the world around them."
For Page, who brought this film to life and shepherded the project — the journey has been an incredible one of discovery. What compelled her to want to tell the story is what she hopes the film will inspire in audiences. "The film and its story really get into what it signifies to truly live outside all of the elusive things and expectations we have for life," says Page. "I'd like for audiences to think about what it means to be a human being in this world, what surviving looks like, and what existence actually means to them."
About the casting
Once Rozema had finished the script, she and Page set out to bring together the rest of the cast which includes Evan Rachel Wood, Max Minghella, Callum Keith Rennie and Wendy Crewson. "These actors are all as authentic as can be," said Rozema. "They would hesitate with anything that seems remotely stagey or setup, and I love that about them because I felt that this story especially needed to be without artifice, as humble and true as possible." Page reached out to Evan Rachel Wood directly, as she was the first actress they considered and hoped would play the role of Eva. "I hadn't been that moved by a script in maybe ten years," said Wood. "I loved it because it really challenged me and I had to put down the script and walk away and really think about what I had just read, what it meant, and how I was supposed to feel. That really excited me."
Page had long wanted to work with Wood, but she recalls it wasn't until she began working with her on Into the Forest that she realized the degree of Wood's talent. "I haven't had an experience with an actor like that in a really long time, where there's just such fluidity," said Page. "Evan is so unbelievably present and wildly committed — she really just blew my mind every single day because she's so extraordinary." Having become attached to the project almost a year before production ultimately began, Wood and Page took time to get to know each other and become friends to prepare for what would be an intimate portrait of the two sisters. They developed a shorthand that comes from really knowing a person and both felt their friendship off-screen helped elevate the performances onscreen. Wood was equally effusive in praise when discussing how it was collaborating with Page to play these two sisters facing the world alone. "Getting the chance to work with someone you admire so much and respect makes you feel safe as an actor," said Wood. "When we got in the room and started acting, I was just blown away by how present she was and how quickly she could turn it on and off."
Max Minghella, who plays Eli in the film, was eager to get to work alongside Page and Wood whose work he admired. "This experience has been rigorous, and very collaborative," said Minghella. "We've all bonded in a pretty intense way because it's a film that requires us to explore a lot of different emotions."
Page had previously worked with Callum Keith Rennie when she was 16 on the film Wilby Wonderful. Of Rennie, Page says, "I think he's one of the most talented people working and was so thrilled that he wanted to be a part of the film."
About the story
In adapting the screenplay, Rozema focused on the second half of Jean Hegland's novel and extracted major themes that were fairly grand in scope, but told from the intimate perspective of the two sisters. The film reveals what Nell and Eva endure to survive and create a new life that has them moving ever further away from modernity and the comforts they once knew. As Page describes, "The film doesn't explain what is behind the collapse of society — but what the sisters are dealing with in terms of the repercussions, such as not having electricity, running water, or access to food supplies."
For Rozema, the story was one she was particularly interested to tell as she felt it was relevant to what is on the world's collective mind. "Maybe the reason we're seeing so many post--apocalyptic stories right now is that we're actually wondering how we could handle a return to a primitive state," said Rozema. "In a very simple way, Into the Forest deals with the complex problem of the collapse of our fossil fueled society on a more psychological level. It asks would happen if there was no transportation, food stopped being distributed, taps wouldn't flow and maybe you are one of the last people alive. But you don't even know for sure. Would you cocoon? Would we become depressed or violent or heroic and adventurous? Would people turn on each other or band together? Would you cling to the habits and rituals and memories of the past? Would women or men be especially vulnerable or especially strong? Would you cling to the old structures or tear them down and start anew?"
As the story progresses, layers are peeled back to reveal more about the family life Nell and Eva once shared, and the loss that brings them together. Very much a dramatic film with moments of suspense, Into the Forest is as much about the bond between two sisters as it is about the frightening possibilities of a complete societal collapse. Wood describes the universal themes behind the film as "extreme loss, letting go, family, love, and survival."
About the sisters
Nell and Eva had a good upbringing in a loving family. Nell is cerebral, putting emphasis on academics and schooling. As the film opens we see Nell on her computer taking a practice entrance exam. "She is a born reader, hungry for knowledge," said Rozema. "She's kind of lonely and needs to connect with her sister, but can't because Eva is so very focused on her art." Eva is equally intelligent, but her heart and soul are set on becoming a professional dancer. As we're introduced to her character, we find that she allows no one to distract her from practicing in her beautiful mirrored dance studio, striving for perfection. "In the screenplay, I wrote that Eva floats in mind, body and spirit," said Rozema. "She is a dancer, and that's all she wants to think about. She doesn't have the same urge as Nell to connect. She is very self-contained."
When all forms of power are gone, the sisters find themselves struggling to cope with the inconveniences. Nell loses access to electronic information, and Eva is left without music, which is vital to her obsessive rehearsing. Very quickly, the sisters come to realize what was initially a disruption to their daily lives is much more severe and permanent — forcing them to find happiness elsewhere, initially in meeting their basic needs for survival. Nell and Eva use their respective skills to help each other survive this new primitive life they've been thrown into. "Through circumstance, the sisters unite in a way that's very powerful and necessary in order to figure out their next steps," said Page. "We see how they have an extraordinary love for one another, in that sort of inexplicable family way."
As is often the case, family comes together in times of crisis, and that is exactly what these sisters do. To brave this new world, they draw upon their inner strength, love and upbringing to carry them through. While they face devastating blows and stumble in their steps to survive — they ultimately unite in a way that leaves audiences feeling hopeful that the sisters will endure.
About the look
The film was shot on location in Vancouver and Vancouver Island, Canada, in beautiful old growth forests that were somewhat representative of Northern California, where the book was originally set. Rozema was initially a bit nervous to shoot in the forest, "I'm wary of shooting in nature because on a visual level it can kind of be messy and I love a nice clean graphic image," she said. "But the forest is the heart of the film" so she embraced showing the dichotomy and complication behind the allure and challenges of the forest, capturing the attraction of it, the danger, the thrill, and the quiet of it all. "I knew I had to avoid anything slick or self-conscious." While driving around with production designer, Jeremy Stanbridge, I was in awe of the natural beauty all around. I kept thinking of something my dad would say when we were driving across the country when I was little, 'Look at that mountain', he'd say 'just look. If you had to pay to see it, people would pay millions of dollars. But it's free.' He'd say it about forests and rivers too - so much of which is now under serious threat."
Rozema enlisted cinematographer Daniel Grant, who she chose to work with after being taken by some of the images in his reel. She says Grant, "has a loose, gracious approach and a clear understanding of moment, light and the emotive power of images. He talks about every shot having some mystery to it. I love that." They storyboarded extensively and mostly stuck to the plan, working hard for what Rozema calls the feeling of "accidental beauty". Rozema says, "I had two words "raw" & "elegant" that I repeated a lot. And Daniel would often I speak about 'curious cam'. We avoided anything that smacked of 'ego-cam', something designed to impress but not born organically from the intent of the scene. We had such a wonderful time designing the shots. When we got to set, I felt completely comfortable that we understood each other and I could focus on the nuances of the acting. In editing, his work was an embarrassment of riches."
The house, which Rozema had envisioned as something designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is almost a character in its own right. She was overjoyed when Stanbridge found a house designed by Frederick Hollingsworth, an icon of west coast modernism, who had actually been a friend of Lloyd Wright's and shared his ensibility. Stanbridge created a state-of-the-art dance studio out of a carport and brought the house through a huge transformation. "Jeremy also handled the fact that the story is set 4 or 5 years in the future very subtly. We decided that this far away from an urban center, only the technology would be noticeably different. I think he did an exquisite job of making it clear but not having it shout 'Hey, look at me, I'm from the future.'"
About the music
Page and Rozema were very excited to work with Max Richter, world-renowned composer based in Berlin. "Max's music is simultaneously intelligent and wrenchingly emotional," says Rozema, "he rides that very difficult line between over-playing a moment and heightening it."
"Into The Forest is a fascinating puzzle of a project, both philosophical and deeply emotional," recalls Richter. "Looking at the texture of the narrative and it's setting, I chose a hybrid acoustic and electronic palette of muted colors. The intense story telling in the film is embedded in abstract analogue drones, reflecting the unknown landscape the characters inhabit, while the instrumental music drives the story forward, articulating the narrative architecture. It was a pleasure to be part of this fascinating voyage of discovery."
"Patricia is exceptional. She has this combination of being incredibly meticulous and so attentive to every detail, but also leaves you feeling absolutely free to explore and discover. We shot this film in a short period of time, and it was remarkable to see her consistently so fantastic and emotionally connected to the story." — Ellen Page on director Patricia Rozema
"Working with Patricia has been a joy on every level and I couldn't imagine doing this film with anyone else. She is fiercely intelligent and open to whatever suggestion you have and really respects the actor's process, especially for a film like this where you have to be so vulnerable." — Evan Rachel Wood on director Patricia Rozema
"Ellen has a rare combination of quiet power and fragility. And she's so damn cool. I never once had to cut around inauthenticity. I think she's one of the best actors of our time." — Patricia Rozema on actress Ellen Page
"Evan is fierce and urgent and entirely committed. There's one scene - I don't want to spoil it for you by saying what happens - where she screams so intensely that she broke all the capillaries around her eyes! I only did one take. And cried after I said cut." — Patricia Rozema on actress Evan Rachel Wood