Kelly Reichardt, known for her previous films “Night Moves,” and “Meek’s Cutoff,” continues to break the movie mold with her newest film “Certain Women.” Starring Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern, and Lily Gladstone, we become immersed in these strong, independent, yet very typical women in a remote area of the U.S. The surroundings and cinematography are as much of an important piece of the film as the women themselves, allowing us to gain insight into their psyche and core feelings. The film, now released, has traveled the film festival circuit and I had the privilege of sitting down with her in Toronto and talking with Reichardt about filmmaking and being a woman in this field. As she explains the motivations behind her creativity, you just might see a parallel between your life and hers.
RHR (Reel Honest Reviews): Where did the idea of “Certain Women” come from and who are these women?
KR (Kelly Reichardt): The stories came from two collections by Maile Meloy. The question that runs through all the films I’ve made…is about [how] are we all connected to each other and what’s our responsibility to each other; strangers that we are. It was this idea of connecting people that are obviously living in the same kind of region. Some of the connections are actual, and others are just how close we are to each other, and right next to each other. I hate to sum it up in any way because the movie strives not to, [but] it’s the connection to strangers.
They’re really flawed, these characters. They’re super flawed people (and she says as an aside,) as we tend to be. They each have their [goals] with their corrupt things in their lives. Also, in the information age, trying to connect and find people, it may be easier [to develop] connections with strangers than with the person you live with or have a family with or are a mother to.
RHR: The film, although more of a drama, like real life, has moments of humor. Tell me about balancing that in your film.
KR: Maile Meloy does a very fine job of that in her writing, of balancing humor but with room for some pain to come in at the same time. Laura Dern is a super physical actor and she really can locate the moment of humor and put an accent on it. I was laughing watching Michelle because I hadn’t given her a role with any humor in it [before]. It was really fun to see how actors can bring out those moments that are there. They really bring them to life.
RHR: The sounds within the film beautifully augment the overall feeling and story. Can you tell me about orchestrating this?
KR: The sound design grows. You have a concept of it in the beginning and then getting to the place you’re shooting, new sounds appear that you weren’t aware of. Livingston, [Montana], happens to be one of the windiest places in the country—the wind just creates this musical sound. So our sound person was really great at giving me a symphony of train and wind sounds to work with. Those things end up playing the way someone else would use a score in the film…I’m using trains. Trains and wind are sonic themes that are running throughout the film.
RHR: As a woman in a predominately male profession, do you find it more difficult because of your gender?
KR: A long time ago, after my first film in ’93, I naively went into it without the realization [of this]. It was like finding out things like love doesn’t last. And then, oh, this is the sexism I’ve heard about! It played out in different ways…trying to make a movie, being on a set, certainly. And with the release of a movie [although] I did have a lot of male support, I became aware in the truest sense. You’re not going to be given the benefit of the doubt that you’re possibly trying something new. It’s going to be be more like, you don’t know what you’re doing. I took it so personally [that] it really broke my heart. It took me a decade to stop banging my head against a wall. Alright…you guys don’t want me, I don’t want you! I’m going to find my own way so I can live and work. I just really wanted to keep a camera in my hands and make films. Eventually, I was able to make “Old Joy.” It was going to be just an art film for me and my friends. I had no idea it would have a life.
I feel kind of unaware of what’s happening in the industry. I totally expect that each film that I make will be my last. It seems a miracle that they get made. It doesn’t have just to do with being a woman. It has to do with making personal films. I think that’s easy for no one. I keep my head toward the ground and hunker down and try to find a way to keep working in whatever capacity that might be. Knock on wood, the door has slowly opened [and] you just find your way.
Reichardt continued to talk about her teaching experiences and how the gender make up of her classes has changed significantly. Always keeping a sense of humor about everything, she said the fact that her classes are now 75% female, “…just might be proof of how dead film is.” I think we can all agree that Reichardt and her filmmaking are what inspires more creative women to give us films with meaning.
“Certain Women” is now playing in cities nationwide.