The stars of the post-apocalyptic drama talk about why we're all so interested in the end of the world.|
by William Bibbiani, published on July 29, 2016 - 6:43 PM
Into the Forest isn't your typical post-apocalyptic movie. There are no car chases, there are no zombies, and you're never really sure why society collapses in the first place. All we know is that one day the power goes off and then it never comes back on, and two young sisters - Nell (Ellen Page) and Eva (Evan Rachel Wood) - are suddenly forced to fend for themselves in the wilderness.
It's a film that looks at the way human beings are able to adapt, but only after we cling fervently to our past. Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood give excellent performances in Patricia Rozema's film, which is now in theaters and on VOD, and I was thrilled to get them both on the phone a month ago to talk about their roles in the film.
Alas, we spent a significant amount of our time wrestling with the inadequacies of a speakerphone, so our conversation was much shorter than the ones we are used to conducting at Crave. But we did manage to explore Ellen Page's connection to the post-apocalyptic movie genre and Evan Rachel Wood's thoughts on the significance of modern dance to the story of Into the Woods.
Crave: Why does the post-apocalyptic genre appeal to you? What do you think the greater appeal is?
Ellen Page: You know, a good question. I’m a fan of the genre. I think maybe because it’s definitely a relatively primal fear, that potentially we all have in terms of a major event happening. That could either be told in a zombie way, a way in which you don’t know what’s going on like in [Michael] Haneke’s Time of the Wolf or in this movie, or what have you. It’s just something I think a lot of people think about in terms of what that’s going to look like, when potentially we don’t have the luxuries that we’re used to, that we take for granted, and what does that mean? Or at least that’s what I start thinking about, of course.
Do you think Into the Forest is a hopeful film about that subject?
Ellen Page: Yeah, I mean, I think it will depend on the person who watches it, you know? For me the film is hopeful. For me the film is hopeful because these two women manage to… their resilience is what inspires me, and the fact that they have been living in a way where they’re incredibly disconnected from the environment that surrounds them, and through this circumstance start realizing that this knowledge is available to them. This knowledge to survive, whether it’s the food to forage for or how to grow your own food, or the ways in which they can fend for themselves.
I think for me it’s hopeful because I go, “Oh, I wish I was learning all those things when I was a toddler!” [Laughs.] But at least hopefully it shines a light on that knowledge, that it’s there and it’s knowledge that we used to know. You know?
I’m wondering what the actual choreography means to you over the course of the film, as opposed to just the act of dancing?
Evan Rachel Wood: Well, it was such a huge part of the book as well, and the way she described it was so gorgeous, and the way Nell would watch her dance is so intoxicated. I think for that character, she’s such a reserved person, and internalizes so much, and dance is when she feels truly alive and truly whole, and that’s how she expresses herself. You know at the beginning of the film that they’ve lost their mother to some sort of illness, and her mother was a dancer, and so I think that’s also her way of holding onto her and the memory of her, through dance. Which is why it’s so devastating for her when the power goes out and she loses her music. And there’s this great line in the book where she says, “It’s not music, it’s not dance, it’s just exercise.” You have to feel the music.
Crystal Pite was the choreographer and I guess she would be classified as modern dance but I don’t even feel like that does it justice. I feel like she’s kind of in her own genre, and I felt like… originally in the book it was ballet, but I think they wanted me to do as much work as possible and ballet is something I’ve done but you have to really keep up with it, otherwise you just won’t have the strength in your legs and your feet. So we started exploring this modern dance and it ended up being the better choice. It was just so… Crystal, when she dances, becomes the elements. She moves like water. She burns like fire. She gets jagged and creature-like, and it really felt like it mirrored our environment in the movie, which plays a huge role in the film. So to have that also be in the dance I thought was just incredible, and an amazing choice.
We really only had about two weeks to hone in on the choreography and figure out what we were going to do, and Crystal’s incredible because she really works with you and she wants to know what comes naturally to you and what you’re feeling when you’re listening to a certain song or something, and then to kind of go off on that. She takes it and turns it into this beautiful arrangement. But I’ve just never, never seen anything like it, and I’ve never seen anything like it on film, and I think it’s so much more effective than if we were to use ballet, which we’ve seen before.
Apart from the dance, it looks like, watching the film, Ellen did a lot of the literal heavy lifting.
Evan Rachel Wood: [Laughs.] Yes…
What was that like on set, where she has to do all this crazy stuff, and you’re dancing?
Evan Rachel Wood: I mean, I don’t know, I think we go back and forth. Ellen likes to say that I had it worse on this film but I think I can say the same about her. They were both difficult but in different ways, and different areas, and at the end of the day what was so wonderful was that we had each other. I think that mirrors in the film too. We had this movie on our shoulders, we didn’t have a lot of time to make it, and we had each other, and that’s how we got through it, and it left little downtime so we hardly ever broke character. I think it really served the film well in that case. Of course there are certain things. Wouldn’t it be nice to have another take or a little more money or a little more time? But it’s a double-edged sword. It’s something beautiful that comes with the [rush] and not having time to think or second-guess yourself, and to know that you can’t warm up into a scene. You have to come ready. And that’s why it was such a blessing to have Ellen because she’s one of the best actresses around right now, and certainly one of the most hard-working and inspiring, and just smart as a whip!
Ellen Page: [Laughs.]
Evan Rachel Wood: I think we both knew that we were in good hands, and there were never unpleasant surprises. It was quite the opposite.