The filmmaking couple Kata Wéber and Kornél Mundruczó experienced a miscarriage together, and they didn’t speak about it for a long time. When Wéber was invited to write a theater play, Mundruczó encouraged his partner to dive deeper into the topic of miscarriage.
“I was really frightened,” Wéber said. “I wasn’t sure if it’s the right choice.”
Wéber said the more she wrote about her miscarriage in her journal, she began to realize how this had become a form of therapy for her.
“There was a healing process within the writing and it also led us to the experience that we can talk about our loss,” Wéber said. “So, yeah, and eventually it became the script somehow.”
With Wéber as the screenwriter and Mundruczó in the directing chair, “Pieces of a Woman” was born.
In the Variety Streaming Room hosted by artisans editor Jazz Tangcay, the filmmaking duo joined actors Vanessa Kirby and Ellen Burstyn discussed the reluctance to address the pain behind miscarriages, dealing with trauma and pajama parties.
“It’s such a taboo,” Wéber said. “So when I did all that research, I realized that there are so many stories untold. So many women. When I saw those interviews, when I spoke to these women, I felt like I’m not just talking about myself. I’m talking about so many women.”
Oscar-winner Burstyn whose career spans six decades added, “I’ve been in the business much longer than any of you. Years ago, there was a rule to never show a child in jeopardy in the movies because audiences couldn’t take it. And for years that was the rule.” When Hollywood did break the rule, “it was news.”
“Pieces of a Woman” begins with an unedited birth sequence, which runs for 23 minutes. Mundruczó said they were not sure if that artform would work, but he wanted to allow the audience to connect with the film’s main characters on an emotional and physical level.
For Kirby who plays Martha, she was drawn to Weber’s script because she had “never seen a birth like this on-screen before.” The scene was also one of the first scenes filmed and when Mundruczó finally yelled “cut,” Kirby recalls, “I just couldn’t stop howling.”
So intense was the scene, that Kirby had to remind herself that the moment was “just pretend.”
“It’s almost timeless and it is compressed into a tremendous amount of real-time,” Mundruczó said. “A long take can be very tricky. It can be a trap. It can be narcissistic. You can make so many mistakes, but you need amazing trust from the actors. You need an amazing team behind you.”
Watch the full conversation above.