When Bart Freundlich was approached to remake Susanne Bier’s After The Wedding, the idea didn’t strike him immediately because the original was so good, he felt it didn’t need to be remade as an American film. It wasn’t until he was watching it with wife and star of the film, Julianne Moore who was struck by the character arc of Ralf, that producers suggested a gender flip. That’s when it all started coming together for Freundlich, the idea of being able to modernize the story and give it a new spin.
I caught up with Freundlich about bringing After The Wedding to the big screen and how using the Arri 65 helped create the emotional landscape of the film.
How did the reimaging of this begin and where do you begin with it?
I loved Susanne’s movie, and I didn’t know about it before one of the producer’s had sent it to me. I think they were thinking of a straight-up remake. For some reason, even though I loved the film, it wasn’t gaining traction in my creative brain. I think because Susanne’s movie is so good, I didn’t feel it needed to be remade.
Watching it with Julie, she recognized something that sparked her with Ralf’s part. She kept talking about it. She said, she’d be interested in playing that part, but it was more a fantasy thing. When I mentioned that to the producer, they said to try flipping the genders. It sounded like something out of Robert Altman’s The Player. It sounded like a joke or even a Hollywood trope. We’ll flip the genders. I started following it. I knew I’d run into some roadblock, but it turned out that the problem it presented actually enlivened the whole thing and gave it a reason for existing separate from Susanne’s movie. It felt very modern to be able to depict a really highly successful businesswoman and have the movie not be about that. It wasn’t about how a woman had started a multi-million dollar company. It was about two women who were multi-faceted and had these vast emotional lives. They were very strong. It suddenly caught fire for me at that moment. Quite honestly, I knew I had Julie interested in it, and that was attractive to me.
To have Julianne there, to work with Billy again, and to work with Michelle, what was that relationship like on set and having that all there?
Billy is one of my best friends in the world. I think if I were a director who hadn’t worked with any of them, it would be extremely daunting to be honest. I found Michelle to be the ultimate collaborator on set. Julie was my collaborator behind the scenes. We talked a lot about the script, and we did a lot of musing about it because we spent so much time together. Michelle just gives herself so fully to the work and the director. She’d always come up to me and ask if there was anything I wanted her to try. It put me at ease. It’s smart on her part because I think when you’re trying to drill down on the emotional stuff as deeply as you can. What was great about this was that there were no villains. There’s no right or wrong. Everyone was just a group of flawed human beings who had made decisions in their lives that they thought were compartmentalized but were now rising to the surface and wreaking havoc.
I love how it’s all in the emotions and the reactions of these characters.
I think the unusual thing for me in this movie when I think of a Danish movie when I think of a European film, it has that feeling that you’re talking about. It’s all about emotion. It’s all about characters. It’s all about that, but sometimes, they don’t have big plots, they turn on a tiny moment. This had both; it had well-defined characters, and I got play with that. I got to take the first third; you don’t know what’s happening, I think. Then you suddenly realize. It plays with perspective a lot; you can view it from any one of their perspectives.
I thought your cinematography was great here. With the opening in India and that shot as you find Michelle’s character, then you take us to New York, there are so many great aerial shots.
Julio Macat is known for shooting these massive comedies, but he’s this deep feeling artist. I’ve known him since we worked together on a kid’s movie. It was another Danish adaptation called Catch That Kid. He wanted to do something dramatic, and this was the right thing.
We decided to shoot with the Arri 65 camera which is what Cuaron used for Roma. It’s designed for these huge epic landscapes, but we tried to apply it to people’s faces and the idea of the landscape of the face. I was so lucky to have this cast of Michelle, Julie, Billy and Abby who have so much going on below the surface, and because we were in this large-format, we could just sit on their face, watch their eyes and they were able to do that work.
Julio put his all into this. We’re going to be on the cover of American Cinematographer, and it’s such a huge deal for a small movie like this to get that recognition. Part of it is what you talked about, these aerial shots that took you from something very wide to something very intimate on Michelle’s face. It also differentiated it from Susanne’s film which was handheld and dogma in style. We wanted to have our own color palette. We chose different lenses too because it was fun.
I got so lucky with the cast. I think one of my best assets is hiring people. I can tell that they understand the spirit of the story. I got really fortunate not just with Julio, but with my costume designer.
Your score too, Michael did such a wonderful job with that.
We got lucky with Michael. He has a real connection to India. He wrote such haunting and beautiful melodies without having to say too much. It was such a blessed project. It took a long time to get it remade, but I was waiting for the right time. I listen to his score in the car all the time; it’s so special.