No escape

Bart Freundlich on Julianne Moore in After The Wedding, and Susanne Bier's Efter Brylluppet

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Bart Freundlich on the Orangina scene in After The Wedding and Susanne Bier's Efter Brylluppet: "That was a beautiful moment also in the original movie. I love scenes where you don't need to say anything that's going on."
Bart Freundlich on the Orangina scene in After The Wedding and Susanne Bier's Efter Brylluppet: "That was a beautiful moment also in the original movie. I love scenes where you don't need to say anything that's going on." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

In the second half of my conversation with Bart Freundlich on After The Wedding at the Langham in New York, we discuss Julianne Moore’s Theresa buying stuffed crocodile and shark toys, Michelle Williams as Isabel responding to Billy Crudup’s Oscar artwork, and sharing an Orangina with Abby Quinn’s Grace. The role of Jonathan (Alex Esola) would have been played by Ralph Bellamy or Gig Young in the last century.

After The Wedding is opening this century, on November 1 in the UK.

Isabel (Michelle Williams) in Theresa’s (Julianne Moore) office: “The only thing that I was interested in is this idea that no matter how much money - no one is escaping this moment Julianne's character has.”
Isabel (Michelle Williams) in Theresa’s (Julianne Moore) office: “The only thing that I was interested in is this idea that no matter how much money - no one is escaping this moment Julianne's character has.” Photo: Julio Macat, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Anne-Katrin Titze: One character seemed like a great screwball touch. That is the future son-in-law [Jonathan, played by Alex Esola], who picks up Isabel [Williams] at the hotel.

Bart Freundlich: He just texted me while you were right here.

AKT: That role would have been played by Ralph Bellamy or Gig Young.

BF: He's interesting because you can't always make every character three dimensional. He's such a sweet human being, Alex, who plays that role. And I love the woman at the wedding who says "Which one's he in love with?" Because he's clearly so obsessed with this idea of working for this high-powered woman, being a part of her family. He's not a bad guy, but he is not a deep guy.

AKT: I actually liked that screwball touch, that there wasn't more to him.

BF: I'm so glad to hear that.

AKT: A certain lightness. At the Ludlow Hotel lobby, which is such a…

Theresa (Julianne Moore) with her daughter Grace (Abby Quinn)
Theresa (Julianne Moore) with her daughter Grace (Abby Quinn) Photo: Julio Macat, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

BF: … hipster kind of place. You like the hotel? I chose it myself! This was something that's very important to both me and Julianne. She was saying there's so much life, actually. She loves movies like this.

I love movies where there's relationships and weddings and people give toasts and there's dancing and there's the real stuff of life. You don't just get bludgeoned with the existential horror of life. That's sort of an element of the movie, but really it's all about that stuff that makes up all of our lives. These dinners with your family, these big events, the private conversations you have. We wanted it to feel like it was entertaining on that level.

So you bring up the screwball nature of the guy or even the asides at the wedding, like the buffoon who is hitting on Michelle's character. We all recognise those people, they're a little bit two-dimensional, but also I feel like they decorate the world. A tone that keeps you a little bit guessing.

AKT: True. A good bonding scene is the Orangina moment, the orange soda? Where they drink from the same cup, which is a glass. It's so hesitant and intimate. There is so much to that moment.

Bart Freundlich on Isabel (Michelle Williams) with Theresa (Julianne Moore): “There are certain things you can't control.”
Bart Freundlich on Isabel (Michelle Williams) with Theresa (Julianne Moore): “There are certain things you can't control.” Photo: Julio Macat, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

BF: That was a beautiful moment also in the original movie [Efter Brylluppet]. I love scenes where you don't need to say anything that's going on. There could be all this dialogue that means absolutely nothing. And it's just an excuse for them to look at each other, to be in each other's energy.

AKT: What is motherhood? What does it mean to be a parent? Things are felt, not spoken.

BF: They're both so fascinated with one another in that scene, just to be able to look and look and look. I couldn't have done it without those actors willing to go to that place. It was almost like they were waiting for the other one to take the lead. It was like a strange dance that they were doing, so they filled in by talking about orange soda.

AKT: Overall, there is a big lovely stab at a certain kind of life of privilege. That is very strong early on, then I forget a bit about it, I follow the characters. I see the parenting - Theresa, Julianne's character, is reading to the kids.

BF: The boys.

Bart Freundlich with cinematographer Julio Macat on the set of After The Wedding
Bart Freundlich with cinematographer Julio Macat on the set of After The Wedding Photo: Elizabeth Fisher, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

AKT: The boys, and she is buying them the stuffed crocodile and shark toys - because there's no time to win them. I felt you were going really far with the criticism at the start and it's good that somebody does that.

BF: In an unapologetic way.

AKT: And that remains after the film is over. I think it's important.

BF: Did you take away, did it feel like any kind of a statement?

AKT: At first I thought, yes, you were making a statement. Then, in the second half, I thought maybe you weren't. But the power of the first part remains, which is good.

BF: That's great to hear. I don't even know what kind of statement. The only thing that I was interested in is this idea that no matter how much money - no one is escaping this moment Julianne's character has. There are certain things you can't control. But I also love that as an audience member we see someone with that kind of money.

And then we see someone like Michelle, who's come from India and we have immediate judgements about it. And in the second half of the movie where you say, we lost that, is I think because we plunge internally into these characters so it doesn't really matter where they are.

Bart Freundlich on the Ludlow Hotel lobby in After The Wedding: "I chose it myself! This was something that's very important to both me and Julianne."
Bart Freundlich on the Ludlow Hotel lobby in After The Wedding: "I chose it myself! This was something that's very important to both me and Julianne." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

AKT: And we discover our own prejudices, of course.

BF: Absolutely. That was one of the biggest, greatest gifts of working on this movie, was getting to look at how I viewed men and women, how I viewed parenthood, how I viewed wealth and all of that.

AKT: One of my favourite moments is the expression on Michelle Williams' face when she says about Oscar's artwork, that she looked it up online and "It's really bad." I love that expression because I don't really know what she's saying.

BF: What I loved is that you get to see their playful relationship, the playfulness between them in that moment. You feel like it's going to be a straightforward moment, and she subverts it.

AKT: It's great, because does she really think that about his art? Does she not? It doesn't matter. It's about something else.

BF: It's like the beginning. I feel like they're constantly like this at the beginning of the movie [Bart makes a tense face]. Like "grrr". And that's like the first moment where it's softening. Like, oh, that's right, we loved each other.

Read what Bart Freundlich had to say on Michelle Williams' character, Billy Crudup's hair, a Lady Gaga song, connecting two worlds, and the narrative in After the Wedding.

After the Wedding opens in the UK on November 1 and is currently in US cinemas.

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