Director Sebastián Lelio Talks “Disobedience”

Ahead of tonight’s world premiere of “Disobedience” at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, director Sebastián Lelio sat down with the Spanish news outlet while he was in Los Angeles. This is the first time Lelio talks in-depth about the movie, so we (loosely!) translated the excerpts on the movie. Be sure to check back later for our coverage of TIFF and don’t forget to follow our twitter @rachelmonline and instagram @rachelmonline for the latest updates.

On what drew him to the movie: “Somehow, when I read ‘Disobedience’ I saw connections with my first feature film, La sagrada familia (2005), which also featured a female character which faced a circumspect world. Disobedience is a universe of characters who are very confused, trying to do their best in a world of moral conventions and rather rigid concepts (in this case, Jewish orthodoxy). In that sense, I thought it could be my territory.”

On how he got involved: “I think I owe this to my feature film ‘Gloria’ (2013). Rachel Weisz own the rights for an adaptation of ‘Disobedience’. They were looking for a director to take over and at that moment [she] saw ‘Gloria’. She made the emotional connections between the story of Disobedience and my film [Gloria].”

On the first meeting between Rachel and Weisz: “The first day with both was a milestone. I was nervous because, deep down, I did not know if there was going to be chemistry between them. I was at the end of a restaurant talking to Rachel McAdams and from afar I see Rachel Weisz walking. She sits down and they start talking. Immediately I realized that there was going to be tremendous electricity between them. The fact that they were so different was going to work perfect for the game of attraction and chemistry that the movie demanded. From my perspective, seeing them both was a sort of epiphany. I saw there was a movie, it was going to be vibrant and urgent. I realized that it was going to be tremendously powerful to watch the acting duel between them.”

On the difference between Rachel and Weisz: “The first experience I had in working with Rachel Weisz was that she’s a force of nature, someone with a volcanic personality. On the other hand, Rachel McAdams is very precise. She studies a lot and is something like an expert in disguise, hiding behind the wig and makeup. It seems to me that, in the end, she handled all the complexities of her character with a unique elegance. They are very different and fit right into the characters, who are complementary and counterparts at the same time.”

On his creative freedom during the filmproces: “I was lucky, because I was asked by her [Rachel Weisz] and the other producers not just to direct, but also co-write the script. In that sense, I always felt in a very familiar world. Otherwise, the companies involved gave me guarantees to be respectful to the filmmaker: they are Film4, an English studio that has a very fine catalog, and the American FilmNation, which is also first class. Both of them always helped me to find the angle with which I had to approach this story.”

On communicating with the cast: “Around actresses like this there are always a legion of agents surrounding them who can interfere. What left me calm and happy was that at the end of the day what was left was an actress, a camera and the set. Nothing else. And that’s what I know. I felt that the two actresses, and also Alessandro Nivola, were totally present on the set. A unique intimacy was achieved.”

On the plot of ‘Disobedience’: “Disobedience is an intense journey, with characters that are going through different shocks. The film varies between different tones as the plot progresses. There is lightness, especially at first, and then even a very particular mood. However, things are getting more dramatic. There is the character of Ronit (Weisz), who fled her home and gained freedom, but lost her roots. And there is Esti (McAdams), who stays in London, but at the same time loses her body, her sexuality. They both obviously lack something, and when they find it, they seek to fill those gaps. But in the long run it is also the story of an impossible love. In that sense, the film has that romantic halo to the old and is a greeting to the classic melodrama.”