Patricia Rozema on "Into The Forest"

A chat with director Patricia Rozema, on one of this year’s most intriguing American indie films, Into The Forest

Interview by Selin Gürel – Illustration by Can Çetinkaya

Into the Forest is set in near future and makes its way to a post-apocalyptic world. What kind of a challenge was it to tell a post-apocalyptic survival story set mostly indoors?

Keeping it visually stimulating. There are so many clichés about post-apocalyptic stories it is easy to disappoint an audience that comes with Mad Max-ish expectations. I want a realistic portrayal of the end of society. And I suspect it would end with a whimper not a bang.

I think it is a movie about being sisters more than anything. Your characters are very different from each other, yet they have this love/hate relationship which reveals their sisterly bond. What was your plan to make this bond seem very convincing and in what ways did Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood add on to this?

I asked them to spend as much time together as possible. Just hanging out, not even necessarily talking, in LA where they both live. We had some delays so this gave them time to become very close. They would go hand out in town together acting like sisters. This created, I hope, a short-hand. You could tell they shared jokes just with a look. I love that look when Ellen’s character is hung over at the kitchen table and Evan’s character gives her a “you whack job” type look. 

I read somewhere that it was Ellen Page got you involved to this story. What was the one thing she said that made you say “Yes”?

She didn’t say anything. I read the book. The book convinced me. I think it’s very important not to be seduced by movie stars. Nothing outside of the story and the tone and the point should determine whether or not your devote your life and your talents to a movie. That said, I was thrilled to work with Ellen because I think she’s a huge talent. An actor who represents an era of strong, knowing, funny young women.

And in which point was Evan Rachel Wood involved?

Soon after I got involved. We talked about Evan, I can’t remember who brought her up first. Then we both said yes. And asked her. She leapt in with both feet immediately.

In post-apocalyptic survival stories tend to be very masculine. Into the Forest is an exception in that sense. Good or bad, male characters cannot come between the sisters, because girls do not need their strength actually. Because of this angle, how hard was it to finance this movie?

Sadly, male aggression, especially revenge, is the easiest thing to finance. It’s the most base human instinct and hence resonates for many. I think a steady diet of aggression and revenge isn’t healthy for people. Especially for young people as their filters aren’t complete yet. They might honestly come to believe that “an eye for an eye” is a sustainable way to live. I don’t think so. Violence breeds violence. I’ve never been that interested in “chase ‘em-punch ‘em’s”. It bores me. But this is what makes the most money and is easiest to raise money for.

I prefer something more character based; more elevating for me. Even if it’s a sad and painful story, I want to believe I’m in the presence of an artist who has something of value to share to me in my life. I hope there are enough people like me to allow me to tell the stories that appeal to me. I hope there is enough money to be made on these stories. If artist’s don’t try to provide alternatives to revenge fantasies, nothing will ever change.

What was the most ridiculous thing you have ever heard, simply because you are a female director and why?

I think people around me are too smart to say dumb things about women directors. They just think it. Or maybe they don’t. I don’t know. Because I don’t read minds. That’s the problem with being a minority (even though women are a majority) in this business/artform is that you always wonder if you aren’t succeeding because of your gender or because your idea just isn’t compelling.

I choose to ignore it and carry on.

The fact is that men aren’t generally interested in how women think. They like watching them fall in love with men but not necessarily have emotional lives apart from them. And men generally have control of the money. This will change gradually as we evolve as a species. Not long ago women were actually still considered the property of men.

Funny thing is I work very well with men. And most of my friends are guys. They are uncomplicated in a way that makes them good friends and, for me, kind of uninteresting lovers.