‘THE MOMENT‘ tells the story of a war photographer, Lee (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and her harrowing return home after narrowly surviving a suicide bombing. When her boyfriend John disappears under mysterious circumstances and Lee suffers a nervous breakdown, Lee’s recovery is complicated by her belief that she may have killed him. Lee’s search for the truth about John leads her to confront the horrible trauma that haunts her.
‘THE MOMENT‘ is directed by Jane Weinstock and is the follow up to ‘EASY‘, which was well received at Sundance and Toronto by critics. With the recent NYC release of ‘THE MOMENT‘ we spoke with Jane Weinstock about the inspirations behind the film, her interest in object reality and much more.
What drew you to this story and to these characters?
The story started out as an Edith Wharton novel about a mother and daughter in love with the same man [‘The Mother’s Recompense’], but [co-writer] Gloria Norris and I couldn’t get the rights to it. So we started brainstorming, and we kept that triangle.
What drew you to that mother daughter relationship?
I think a lot of women have really complicated mother daughter relationships. Though I don’t have any children, so I was never a mother.
But you were a daughter.
Yes, I was inevitably a daughter. And I just wanted to explore a very complex relationship about this woman who loves her daughter more than anything in the world, but she also loves her job and is committed to that. And she can’t seem to make the two work together—which is a problem that a lot of mothers have.
The film’s protagonist, Lee, is a war photographer. What draws you to photography and photographers?
Gloria [Norris] has been a photographer for a long time. My husband’s a photographer. So I’m around photography quite a lot. I wanted to look at the intersection of photography and film. It’s obviously been done in some films, but not always in an interesting way. And I like that Lee is a war photographer, for a bunch of reasons. One is that she’s very committed to showing the world what she feels is important. And also it shows that she’s attracted to danger. One is selfless, and one is selfish.
Lee has been through some majorly violent experiences on the job, and is severely traumatized. When making the movie, did you do any research on posttraumatic stress disorder?
I did do some research about that, but I don’t know if it affected the film that much.
Did it at least help to be sure that you weren’t going off on the wrong track?
Yes. Actually, I showed it in a classroom with a panel of a couple of professors, and one of them was an expert in posttraumatic stress disorder. And she felt that the film really got it right, which was nice.
Are you drawn to damaged characters?
Yes–I think even if somebody’s very damaged, they show us things about ourselves that are maybe less extreme, but still there. So here there’s a very bad mother daughter relationship, but I think that mothers and daughters have something to get from it, even if they’re not this messed up.
Would you say that the structure of the movie mirrors Lee’s fractured psyche?
That’s exactly what I would say. I wanted the film to be very associative, so it would reflect Lee’s unconscious. So I wanted to jump around in time and blur the distinction between memory and fantasy, so you don’t really know what’s what. People will have different interpretations, and I always like that.
Throughout the story, you withhold a lot of information from the audience. When making that kind of film, how do you go about making sure the audience has something to grab onto, and not feel lost?
I do think some people find it to be too much. They can’t stand not having more anchors. But I like that kind of movie, where there’s a lot of ambiguity, and different people will have different reactions and interpretations.
In one interview I read, you commented that you don’t believe in the idea of objective reality. How is that reflected in your work?
I’m always asking the question, “Is it fantasy? Is it reality?” I think that it’s really important to show the world in terms of people’s perspectives rather than as some reality that exists outside of that.
How did Jennifer Jason Leigh get on board, and what did she bring to the project?
She brought a lot. Our casting director sent her manager the script, and he really it for her. So she came in, and we had a good meeting and she was on board. She wasn’t someone I was really thinking about—but then once she was there, she was perfect for the role in so many ways. And she is also a writer/director, so she was very involved. When we were rehearsing, she would often have script ideas that we ended up using. And when we were editing the film, we showed her a couple of cuts, and she had a lot of interesting note. She was an important participant.
Is mental illness an issue that fascinates you?
Yes, definitely. One question the film raises is, what does it mean to be psychologically healthy? I think mental illness can be an exaggeration of things that we all feel, so I think it’s very telling in terms of what it can show us. We can identify with Lee’s issues even without being crazy or hallucinating. A lot of her perceptions are truthful. Lee has a psychotic break, and she’s hallucinating, but that doesn’t mean that the things that she says are not truthful. Even through these issues, there is a kind of logic. It’s more an unconscious logic, but we’re all ruled by our unconscious.
– Interview Conducted by David Teich