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Sarah Polley’s second film debut, ‘Take This Waltz,’ explores the strain of long-term relationships and forbidden attractions. The film is full of metaphors such as the hot and steamy Toronto summers. This article is part 2 of a two part series.
It was story, specifically the “Storm” scene which made Polley and Montpellier decide to shoot the film digitally. This allowed them to let the camera roll for over two hours continuously. There’s an emotional response to images you get when you are able to film them at certain times of the day. Shooting at magic hour (a misnomer because this is the last 15 minutes of sunlight in a day, as well as the first 15 minutes in early morning) was something Polley wrote into the script. As the sun set on Margot’s marriage, it also rose on the potentially new relationship she had with Daniel. “Neither of these scenes would have had the same significance if they were shot at high noon,” commented Montpelier.
“For the hero house, where Lou and Margo live, the colors are slightly off prime because I didn’t see Sarah’s ‘bowl of fruit’ as being fresh, but rather sticky and over ripe,” remarked Production Designer Matthew Davies. “I wanted a sense of heat building up in the house, slightly oppressive, with a treacley, beautiful amber light filtering through the windows. This is in direct contrast to Daniel’s apartment which is bright white with high key, primary colors.”
As envisioned by Polley, the hero house in Toronto’s Little Portugal (which is the scripted neighborhood) is a fine example of real estate as biography, embodying the spirit of Queen West: a liberal, independent middle class couple would have bought the place when the market took a momentary downturn and then began extensive renovations which dragged on. “Unfinished, like everything else in Lou and Margot’s life,” continued Davies. “So we see the uneven surfaces, exposed wiring and peeling plaster.
Textured surfaces play light in an interesting way so we used grass wallpapers, a shiny, leather sofa, which has a sticky quality and the coffee table made from samples of linoleum. The colors are oranges, greens and nicotine khaki.” The interior walls of the house are a very saturated, hot, apricot color and is further intensified by installing amber and lilac glass panels which pick up shafts of exterior light shining through into the house through patterned gobos, lace sheers and wicker blinds. And in every room are oscillating fans. The effect of heat is a result of layer upon layer upon layer of architectural detail.”
Davies furnished the house with vintage pieces, re‐appropriated from other sources. The art on the living room wall, created specifically for the film, is a photographic triptych of seven graffiti artists (mostly kids from a city project) at one Toronto streetcar stop. This piece is made more significant as a result of the agenda of the new mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, who had that particular wall painted over a few months after the film was completed. This is also the same streetcar stop in the scene where Daniel, with his rickshaw, passes by Margot.
“To say Sarah is collaborative doesn’t do justice to her approach. Sarah is very multi‐layered and cultivates very healthy relationships with the crew, allowing everyone to feel like they are a part of the project, to invest themselves in it, and bring something exceptional of themselves to the film,” explained Davies.
“Life has fantastic moments of absolutes, moments where you believe absolutely something, and those moments should be really enjoyed,” concluded Polley. “My general belief is that every decision is ambiguous and it is rare that a decision is clearly right or wrong. Sometimes it can feel that way and those are interesting moments that stand out for me. But I think we are all just muddling through. You never know how a decision will end up so you never know what the right one is. To me, the only real truth is in ambiguity.”
Image Courtesy of Take This Waltz