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Director Helen Shaver Q&A: ‘I’m Not Interested in Sentimentality’

A lot of female performances, especially with young women acting, they start with sort of ideas of what they should look like, and you have to let them do that and then strip the “idea” away, basically saying , “Show me you.” Don’t be afraid. You don’t have to be pretty; you don’t have to be nice. Let it go because beauty lies in the cracks, in humanity. Which is why Tatiana is so astounding, because she lacks vanity. She is so invested and committed to the investigation of character and humanity with all of the clones, in whatever work she is doing. So with Tatiana you never have to go through that stripping-away process. She already comes willing to show her truth, her understanding, within the context of the scene, speaking through the mouthpiece of the character. She’s something else all together.

ob-505-ff-2 There were a lot of questions about the Cophine flashback scenes and working with Tatiana and Evelyne.
HS: First of all, on a sense memory level, go back to where they were at five years ago when they played that other scene so we could start the scene in truth and connect it to that moment. And it was interesting because when we first started rehearsing it, it was scripted that they were sitting on the couch as they were at the end when we last saw them five years ago. And their first inkling was to stay seated on the couch and basically have a conversation. I was watching that, and I knew that the scene needed a whole different dynamic in order to create the arc for the scene, and so I just began by talking to them. I went to Tatiana, and I said, this is the reality, this is what you’ve just found out ,and go there, be outraged at the betrayal, being ripped apart, everything you know about your life is just gone, and let that energy get you off the couch and get away from this woman who has betrayed you. And that’s where we began, and I continued to you know invite/prod/push towards the depth of that somewhat Greek tragedy, that essential betrayal of this woman that she loves, and then to make Evelyne understand that she is not the victim in the scene in any way shape or form. This is not about victimization; this is about truth; this is about reality. How do you reach across when you’ve created that chasm? Clearly then both of their obstacles were clear and then giving Evelyne the objective of reaching across that chasm, of finding, opening that door and finding a way to let Cosima come back to her and for her to express her love to her. And then it evolved, and we shot it a number of times going around the circle with them. I used steady cam. I knew I was going to do it again in the dressing room, so the scenes would mirrored each other visually. And because they’re both such good actors, instead of trying to repeat performance we just started at the same emotional spot in the different takes, started with the same truth and let it evolve each take individually — when the kisses happen, when the tears happen, when the anger happens, when the laughter happens. I knew that editorially we could create a multifaceted diamond by repeating the scene a number of times but letting it evolve differently each time. Editorially we were then be able to use moments from the different takes

A marvelous moment happened early on, maybe the second take…. Evelyne lifted Tatiana up so that she was holding her, which made Tatiana taller than her. That sort of shift in the physical dynamic is so evocative for the viewer — to go from Cosima looking up to Delphine , to being level and finally above . If we had cut to a wide shot you would have seen Cosima’s legs wrapped around Evelyne’s waist. Evelyne literally lifted Tatiana up, and it was just a breathtaking moment. And while I let each scene evolve in its own way, I said, “Make sure you lift her up because that’s fantastic.”

One knows when something is “true.” I know when it moves me; I am the audience in that moment. As long as it moves me I know I’ve got it. And I wept every take; I was weeping by the end of it, because it was so friggin beautiful and human. And the generosity and spirit of each of these women and the incredible trust in each other and in me, you can’t imagine how delicious that is.
The scene where they accept their relationship is shot to mirror the flashback …. a bookend.

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