by Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, published on July 29, 2016 - 4:11 PM EDT|
Zombies, viruses and killer meteors might be considered relatively pleasant compared to the quiet apocalypse wreaked by Into the Forest director Patricia Rozema.
As opposed to the more fantastical and metaphorical nature of some end-of-the-world cinematic scenarios, sisters Eva (Evan Rachel Wood) and Nell (Ellen Page) have to survive their woodsy environment when all the power is knocked out for unspecified reasons in the drama (in select theaters and available on DirecTV now).
At first an inconvenience, the outage soon turns brutal and unpredictable.
“I like to set up really difficult opposites that I want to hit: It makes you afraid and it comforts you, and it’s real and it’s a fable,” says Rozema (Mansfield Park).
“The whole movie is a stripping away — of parental protection, of every comfort. Everything is taken away from them and they’re just left naked in the woods.”
At the time the disaster strikes, Eva, a dancer, is getting ready for an important audition and high schooler Nell is studying for the SATs. Soon, they have to figure out a new status quo, with diminishing food resources — especially the last of their all-important gasoline for electricity. At one point, they bicker about whether to use the gas to enjoy music or to conserve it for the longer haul.
There is a natural human desire “to adapt and keep going and keep dancing, even though everything is going wrong,” Rozema says. “I’m fascinated with the notion of the self-delusion involved with the end times.”
But when they do utilize the gas to play home movies, for the sake of memory and family, “you actually realize that’s the most healing thing ever,” the Canadian director adds. “It’s the complete right use.”
Into the Forest is the first feature film Rozema’s directed since 2008’s Kit Kittredge: American Girl, primarily so she could focus on raising her daughters, ages 20 and 12. The new movie was done in part because she wanted a project to honor her kids.
“One of them actually asked me, ‘How come there’s no movies with girls?’ Because girls will watch boys, and sometimes, boys won’t watch girls. But we’re actually shifting that,” says Rozema, 57.
It’s set in the near future, so the technology of Into the Forest reflects that — there are spiffy, ergonomic phones and also a curved TV, which Rozema planned for before they actually became a thing you could buy. “I am a prophet!” she jokes.
Losing the use of electronic devices will hit home for people, and Rozema thought it’d be good to explore what happens with people are forced to return to the Stone Age: Do we deal or just go into the fetal position?
“Some of us would,” she says. “I love gadgets. It’s almost a stress release — I look at new photographic equipment out of pleasure. There’s a genuine fear — the loss of all that — but I love camping, too.”
She recalls taking her daughters back to nature in British Columbia for a camping excursion, though Rozema didn’t insist they leave their iPads and other tech behind.
“The first day they played with it, and then they fell away and they didn’t want to,” Rozema says. “They were climbing trees and doing some yoga in the forest. There was some pleasure in it for them. So I don’t think it would be all painful.”