They also discuss was it was like finding out that Martin Scorsese wanted to get involved.
With Pieces of a Woman now available to stream on Netflix, I got the opportunity to chat with writer Kata Wéber and director Kornél Mundruczó, and you can be we spent a good deal of time discussing what it took to pull off that unforgettable long take. The movie stars Vanessa Kirby as Martha, a woman pregnant with her first child who’s committed to having a home birth. Complications arise during labor that have devastating results, with Pieces of a Woman exploring how Martha manages the resulting grief.
That entire birth sequence is captured in a single shot, an immense performance and technical feat that brings you incredibly close to Martha’s experience. Was that always the way Wéber envisioned the scene playing out? Here’s what she told us:
“I wanted to be, for sure, as detailed as possible. I wasn’t expecting this to be a oner, but I was sure it needs space and time because I wrote around 20, 30 pages. I wanted to bring all the emotions that are possible during the birth. Why? Because I didn’t want to just depict tragedy and loss, but I also wanted to establish the love that Martha feels towards the baby, and also the presence of the baby, which then takes us through the whole inner journey of Martha. I think this perspective that a spirit is there all the time was really important for me. And then when Kornél and [cinematographer] Ben [Loeb] were talking about how to put it on camera, I felt like this aspect that we were talking [about] is right there with the oner and also with the gimbal later on.”
While every single beat of a sequence like this is important, figuring out the precise moments when to start and stop such a long take can say quite a bit about the material being captured in that shot and also what follows. Was the plan always to start the oner with Martha’s water breaking and end it with the arrival of the ambulance? Here’s what Mundruczó said:
“That is not the water breaking, but the first phantom pain is coming. That was the moment when I would like to start, and ended up on the ambulance also because we don’t want to show exactly what’s happening, you know? When we exit from the scene, when we [last] saw the baby, she’s good and we have this infinite love so we have to stay with it and that’s why I found that we have the ambulance car, we have this big noise, but we don’t know what’s happening. So the suspense is staying into the movie and attention [is on], ‘What’s going on?’ So in that next shot, when she’s just walking back to work, you’re not sure, you know? What was it? So, you slowly discover that she lost the baby.”
Mundruczó also spoke about finding the right spot for this sequence on his shooting schedule:
“I desperately wanted to shoot [that] first thing. I really felt there is no way to continue the movie without this experience and you cannot play without that tough, rough, physical variety of emotions what you have to feel there. So, I felt that it has to happen in the first day. [Laughs] It was tough, but in a way, it was like our A, B, C. It was like, okay, this movie wants to be like that. This movie wants to target that quality of acting. This movie wants to target this kind of team behind [it], so that was very important and very miraculous.”
If you’d like to hear more about Mundruczó’s shot selection and what it was like when he found out that Martin Scorsese wanted to come aboard as an executive producer, you can check out our full conversation with him and Wéber at the top of this article! We’ve also got chats with Vanessa Kirby and Ellen Burstyn for you as well.
Kata Wéber and Kornél Mundruczó:
- Did Wéber first write the birth scene to be shot in a long take; her main goals for that sequence.
- Mundruczó on figuring out the precise moments to begin and end that long take.
- Why it was so important to Mundruczó to get that long take done first thing.
- Mundruczó details his coverage choices for the heated argument between Vanessa Kirby and Ellen Burstyn’s characters.
- What was it like when they found out Martin Scorsese was getting involved?
His filmmaking career might be headed to The Great Beyond.
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