Women Talking (2022)
The graceful and sparse background music by Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir enhanced our experience of this profound and touching film, directed by the talented Sarah Polley. Someone in our discussion group said the score brought “wholeness’. The noise of the Rusthall fireworks provided an additional accompaniment plus occasionally someone’s mobile phone.
Women Talking (2022) told a disturbing story based on the abuse of women and children in a Mennonite community in Bolivia. However, our discussion group felt this wasn’t fixed to a time or place. It was a human and not a religious story, with themes of patriarchy, forgiveness, healing, unity and self-determination. One of our group members called it a ‘fable’ and believed, “real world questions and issues are filtered through what is a stylised and intense debate between the female protagonists.”
As the damaged women discussed whether to stay or to leave the colony, we were aware of how talking through painful situations could lead to enlightenment, action and change. We witnessed the women moving forward in their thinking. We talked about why the women didn’t question their religion in any way. Instead, there was a “spiritual energy” in their decision about leaving the colony. Their remembered prayers and hymns gave them hope.
The film revolved around the layers of forgiveness. Could the women forgive the men for their sexual abuse? Was forced forgiveness true forgiveness? Agata, a colony member, points out that forgiveness becomes problematic when it seems to convey permission.
Ben Whishaw’s gentle role of the school teacher August offered a glimpse of a new era, as he stays in the colony to teach the boys. The character of Melvin, who became selective mute and trans male after the attacks, was especially intriguing. There are also realistic portrayals of disability. We felt there were so many additional stories to be told from the characters in the film and this shows how engaged we felt with it.
A member of the discussion group who had lived in Canada talked about the isolation of rural places and the loneliness, frustration and common dependency on alcohol.