Vanessa Kirby on Filming that Devastating Pieces of a Woman Birth Scene

“Once you’re in it, it’s like being on a roller coaster.”

There’s a number of unforgettable moment in the new Netflix release, Pieces of a Woman, but the opening birth scene is seared in my brain for life for a number of reasons. The movie stars Vanessa Kirby as Martha, a mother-to-be on the verge of giving birth. She’s decided on a home birth and director Kornél Mundruczó captures the whole thing from the moment Martha’s water breaks to the sequence’s devastating conclusion in a single shot.

It’s one of the most challenging scenes I’ve ever watched, but it’s also a performance and camerawork marvel. With the movie now available to stream on Netflix, I got the opportunity to chat with Kirby and much of our conversation centered on how they completed that particular sequence. There isn’t a single moment of it that looks easy or like any sort of breather for Kirby, but she insisted it’s the very start of the shot that was the toughest:

“Probably the hardest bit of it was the very beginning because you hear ‘action,’ you know that you’ve got about 30 minutes with no cuts and you don’t want to drop the ball because if you do, you have to start again and you let everyone down. But once you’re in it, it’s like being on a roller coaster, because you’re free-falling, you know? You don’t know what’s gonna happen. Most of the lines are improvised. You know that you have to be in this bit and then go here and then go to the bath and then go to the bedroom. So it’s probably the beginning because you’re just easing in from normal reality to the play of it I guess … so you can’t really think about that anymore. Your nerves just go because you have to be present or something might go wrong.”

Vanessa Kirby and Molly Parker in Pieces of a Woman
Image via Netflix

While Mundruczó is leading the charge behind the lens, there are loads of individuals involved in pulling off such a complex one shot. Here’s who Kirby named dropped when asked for an unsung hero of the sequel:

“The prosthetics team who hid in the cupboard of the bedroom. I think the camera leaves the bedroom and then as the camera’s outside the bedroom while Sean was on the phone, the prosthetics team would run out and they had to put the baby’s head coming out basically. So they had to quickly put that there so that when the camera came back they would find it.”

She also added one individual who appears in front of the lens:

“And the other unsung hero is the actual baby who was waiting around the corner with his parents in the other room. He’d be brought in and would be suddenly there in the scene and so he was being super quiet and we couldn’t have done it without them.”

Vanessa Kirby in Pieces of a Woman
Image via Netflix

If you’d like to hear more about Kirby’s experience filming this scene and whether she finds complicated oners like this more challenging that static shots, you can check out our full conversation at the top of this article!

Vanessa Kirby:

  • Why the very beginning of the oner was the most challenging part.
  • How did Kirby recharge between takes of that oner?
  • Who’s the unsung hero of that portion of the shoot?
  • What does Kirby find more challenging, doing an emotional beat in a movement-heavy oner or one captured in static shot?

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