The following questions and answers are excerpted from a conversation that followed the NBR screening of Resurrection.
What goes into fully developing characters like Margaret and David?
Andrew Semans: I don’t have any brilliant insights into that, I don’t think. I think it’s just a matter of building up characters bit by bit, little by little, stealing from anybody you know, or any experiences you’ve had that seem to be relevant, and of course stealing from other films and other stories! I think, with me, I just try (when I’m developing characters and writing characters) to keep asking myself, “does this pass the ‘smell test?’ ” In other words, does this feel real, or does this feel psychologically consistent? Does this feel compelling? And I try to monitor myself to guard against getting lazy with my decisions, and to prevent myself from falling back on cliché. I just try to minimize and eliminate any beats that feel false. And it’s just a gradual process over time. But I have no system, I have no great insights into that work— it’s just a matter of trying to live up to my own standard, really. And then when it comes to the actors, it’s true that these characters were not written for these actors at all. It was just a matter of trying to identify actors who I felt were a good, intuitive fit with the characters… and just try to cast the movie well, really. When we got Rebecca [Hall] and Tim [Roth] onboard, the script changed almost not at all. It wasn’t significantly rewritten, the characters weren’t adjusted; they weren’t adapted to meet them. They felt they could embody the characters on the page, and they did! The only change we made was to make them British (they were written as Americans).
they said, “no! Stick to your guns!”
How were the fight scenes choreographed? They were very impressively done.
AS: Thank you, that means a lot to hear you say that. Because it was brand new to me— I’d never made anything where there was fighting, where there were stunts and stunt doubles… all that was brand new to me. And it was quite intimidating. It was a matter of… how do we do this? I had visualized the scenes fairly clearly in my mind as I was writing and shot listing the movie. And it was really a matter of trying communicate what I had in mind as clearly and as explicitly at possible to the stunt team, so that they could then choreograph that and turn that into something that was actually playable by the actors and by the stunt doubles themselves. But I was really just kind of doing my best to either fake my way through it, or simply trying to communicate clearly so that the people who really knew this stuff could bring it to life. It was a lot of trial and error, but again, the idea was to come up with scenes of physical conflict that felt messy. That felt… that didn’t feel choreographed, that felt like these were people who were not accustomed to fighting! These people don’t know karate or anything. So it had to have a high degree of savagery, but a low degree of competence when it comes to the actual battle. And so that’s what we were trying to do.
Can you talk about how you used color in the film? It was beautifully monochromatic, except for pieces of colors here and there.
SAS: The idea of the color scheme of the movie was that Margaret’s world would have very cool colors: a lot of black and white, a lot of blues and grays and things like that, because Margaret is this character who is consumed with control… controlling her environment, controlling herself. And so we felt that she would just sort of be naturally attracted to, or best be reflected by, colors that didn’t announce themselves… that kind of conveyed a sense of restraint. And then when David comes into her life, he brings warmer colors. When he’s first introduced there’s a lot of green (which of course isn’t a warmer color, but is a very vivid color), and he wears browns and oranges, and more autumnal colors. We just liked that he brought with himself more of a sense of nostalgia, or academia, or a sense of a kind of… honey-toned past that he’s trying to attract her back into. And so that was the idea there, and also with Abbie, the daughter, we wanted to give her one piece…one color…that she had on her person almost all the time that was meant to be in defiance of her mother’s color scheme. So she wears a little something… it’s not a loud color, but she wears this sort of lavender sweatshirt all the time, which is meant as kind of a “FU” to her mother, saying, “I’m not onboard with your world.” We tried to adhere to that as much as we could, although sometimes certain locations got in our way and messed up our color scheme.
I’m curious about when in the writing process you decided on the ending of the film. Was that the only ending you wrote?
AS: Very early on, that was the ending I wanted for the film. I wanted the evisceration of David and the emergence of a live baby. I was drawn to that, it felt very “Grimms’ Fairy Tale” to me, and I liked bringing in this fantasy element in what was otherwise a fairly realistic or naturalistic movie (hopefully). But it is, obviously, an unrealistic ending. It’s a strange ending. It’s a potentially alienating ending. Some people reject it, some people embrace it. And at a certain point, I did get nervous, and I thought that even though this ending is what I want it to be — it is something that I find satisfying — I was worried that people would reject it. Very early on (as I was looking for producers and other collaborators), I wrote a version of the script where nearly the same things happen: she cuts open David and she tries to free…liberate…her baby, but there is no baby. And I wrote that version, and I didn’t like it, and I felt like it was bleak, and it felt like it was somehow a betrayal of my protagonist. But thank goodness the producers on the film read both versions early on, and they said to me, “this version where there’s no baby… we’re not going to make this movie. We’re not interested in it. We only want to make the version with the baby.” Which is the version I wanted to make anyway! So, you know, god bless them for doing so, because I was on the verge of compromise, and they said, “no! Stick to your guns!” And in the years after that, it was always some version of how it is now.