Two things I don’t do often: write a blog post just a week and some days after the previous, and go to the same movie twice. I’m doing the first because I was so deeply affected by seeing “Women Talking” I went two days in a row. The first time, I attended alone, and the second, with four friends and then out to dinner to discuss it. Both times were powerful.
This isn’t a typical review, so if you’re not familiar with the details of the film, there are many reviews (like the Guardian’s) and responses online that supply them. Nor is it about the plight of the women in the story behind the story or how consistent or compatible to “real” Mennonite life it is or a critique of casting or screenplay or anything else. These were discussions that happened in my Facebook feed before I attended, and they interested me because years ago I engaged myself with the Bolivian Mennonite women’s story and also read and reviewed Miriam Toews’ novel Women Talking, but after seeing the movie I found myself strangely disinterested in opining on any of this, for the movie affected me at a visceral, not intellectual, level, and that’s still the place it sits. I can’t quite articulate why or what about this version of the story called up such emotion in me. My friends and I certainly remembered situations of it not mattering what we thought but mine has been a place of privilege in terms of the horrific backstory here. Still, somehow I felt myself within every woman in that hayloft, as well as those like Scarface Janz who left the conversation. I did love the two older women in particular, yes, but I “knew” the women of the other ages as the camera lingered on their faces too.
But I’m not sure that’s quite it either, it sounds preposterous to suggest that I understand each angle or position within the arguments, reactions, consolations, and even laughter about forgiveness and innocence and courage. About the wisdom in “it is possible to leave…in one frame of mind and arrive elsewhere in another entirely unexpected frame of mind” (August). About what to do!
Please forgive the foggy imprecision of this response. Maybe it was simply being drawn into a story that feels core in its concerns, about topics important to all of us. And for sure to women. Maybe it’s because if I wrote the minutes of my life I would set down exactly their desires too: that we want our children to be safe, that we want to be steadfast in our faith, that we want to think.
You summarized it well, Dora. I loved the movie too, it affected me differently than the book did. I teared up when they sang “children of the Heavenly Father” and “Nearer my God to Thee.” It touched me at a visceral level.
I have not read the book or watched the movie, and I may not. But, I am grateful for your thoughts on these “core concerns.” You said it well in your last sentence. Yes, we do want safety for our children and do not want our faith to be shaken, no matter how terrible the circumstances. You are a voice for women who are not afraid to think.
I can’t get this impassioned plea out of my mind from one of the grandmothers (Greta?);
“We are wasting our time by passing this burden, this sack of stones from one to the next, by pushing our pain away.
Let’s absorb it ourselves. Let’s inhale it. Let’s digest it. Let’s process it into fuel.”
Conflict feels so defeating, oppressive and powerful to me right now. The wisdom to not abolish conflict, but to use it and transform it for fuel feels like I imagine it might feel to be offered wings.