Share & Connect
‘Take This Waltz’ is the second feature film from writer/director Sarah Polley, based on her screenplay which made the coveted Black List in 2009. Whereas Polleyâs feature film directorial debut, ‘Away From Her,’ was the tender story of a couple in the winter of their married life, ‘Take This Waltz’ follows a younger couple, married for only a few years, moving from the springtime of their romance, settling into what should be a warm, loving life together.
Set in Polleyâs hometown of Toronto, she proudly admits that she romanticizes the city, and wanted to show her affection for the treeâlined streets and downtown residential areas tucked in around neighborhood restaurants and cinemas. So she placed the story right onto the sidewalks, streetcars and beaches which she walks every day.
The title of the film, ‘Take This Waltz,’ comes from the Leonard Cohen song of the same name, the words of which Cohen interpreted from âLittle Viennese Waltzâ by the modernist poet, Frederico Garcia Lorca, who was assassinated in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. The lines read: âNow in Vienna there’s ten pretty women. There’s a shoulder where/Death comes to cry. There’s a lobby with nine hundred windows./There’s a tree where the doves go to die.â
âThe lyrics are so tragic and romantic,â declared Polley. âYou never completely understand it, but it makes perfect sense on some deep, emotional level. I listened to it nonâstop while writing the screenplay and it informed the tone of what I wanted to accomplish.â
In the story, Lou is the good husband, durable in his affection for his wife, grounded in his kitchen, as he diligently works his way through his chicken recipes; Margot, however, is a zephyr. Temperate in her selfâawareness, untethered by intention, she is easily propelled by gusts of inspiration coming from others. Side by side, making all the proscribed choices young, urban couples are advised to make, they move towards their future. Lou, contentedly â Margot, because she is his wife.
For Polley, this opening scene in the kitchen, domestic, yet dull, approaching claustrophobic; peaceful, yet intensely restless, is a bookend for the film. âI start and end the film with this scene, even though a great deal goes on in between,â said Polley, âI wanted to make a film about desire, not a philosophical essay, but to be inside of it, to feel how delicious it is, and how difficult it is for us, as human beings, to either turn our backs on that sensation or to live with the primal gap it creates, one that needs to be fulfilled. I wanted to show the process of someone trying to escape that essential state of being and how it doesnât always work.â
In many respects, ‘Take This Waltz’ is a coming of age movie about a woman in her late 20s, for whom the veil concealing the reality of romance and relationships truly falls away, revealing an emptiness that cries out to be addressed. âFor women like Margot, and most women I know in their 30s,â said Polley, âthere is a point when they realize the âhappily ever afterâ relationship fairy-tales they were told about as a child are not quite true. If youâre lucky, there is a great love, but apart from that, how do you know if a relationship is âwrongâ or if needing/wanting/desire is a function of life being complicated? Itâs not simple. You may be in a relationship where you are mostly happy, but also sad or angry â and nothing prepares us for that.â
The emotional reality of relationships is complicated by the pervasive happiness imperative that runs through our lives. Relationship guidelines abound in books, magazines and online, dictating the levels of happiness we should be experiencing with our partners: are your needs being met? Can you communicate? Do you still laugh? Do you still enjoy being alone with them? Can you still overlook minor annoyances? Polley weighs in on this subject: âI think we live in a culture where if there is something missing in a relationship, then there is something wrong. It can be fixed, we are told, and itâs a failure to not fix it,â she said.
The honeymoon period of Margot and Louâs marriage is over. Their fifth anniversary dinner scene at the restaurant, where they struggle to converse, poignantly highlights this. As the novelist, Robert Louis Stevenson, wrote, the cruelest lies are often told in silence. âThere are very few couples who are completely engaged and fascinated by each other years into their relationship,â noted Polley. âOnce you know someone that well, itâs hard to have the space between you to be interested and excited by each otherâs company.â
Margot copes with this by adopting slightly baroque behavior: irregular in its rules, swinging wildly between baby talk, verbal jousting and perfunctory sex. Lou, who is having a hard time following her playbook, takes the passive approach. âLou has a belief that if you donât address something head on with words, it has a chance of just going away. I understand why he wants to avoid conversations. From an outside perspective, itâs so obvious that talking about the problem would be the better thing to do, but in an intimate relationship, itâs the scariest thing in the world to admit that there might be something insurmountable there,â explained Polley.
The marriage isnât enough for Margot, but for Polley, the question becomes, âIs anything really enough? My wish is that throughout the film, people will not know what Margot should do and theyâll bring their own lives into the decision. Thereâs a tremendous amount of ambiguity in the film. For people who left a stagnant relationship and it was the right decision for them, I hope theyâll feel this film supports that. For those who have turned away from temptation, and stayed in a relationship, I hope this film will act as a confirmation that this was the right choice as well.â
Image Courtesy of Â Take This Waltz