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Aisling Walsh, director of Maudie

Sony Pictures Classics releases Maudie at Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas on June 16th, 2017.

NYC MOVIE GURU: When it comes to entertaining the audience and provoking them emotionally, which of those 2 elements were hardest to tweak in the editing room?

Aisling Walsh: This film has both. You can very easily go one way or the other. To keep that audience there is quite a challenge. Emotionally, you're brought on a journey that's quite strong. Getting the balance of that was really the challenge.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Would it be accurate to say that the landscape in Maudie is like a character?

AW: Yes. I think the house is, and that the landscape is. I suddenly realized that landscape is very important to me as a filmmaker. That's the story of the film. Landscape for each film is very different, and it's a huge important thing for me to feel that it's right for the film visually so that the actors can create what they're trying to do in that landscape.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Francois Truffaut once observed that a truly great film has a perfect blend of Truth and Spectacle. Do you agree with his observation?

AW: Yes, absolutely. I think so. I think that Maudie is very unusual in that it really is quite bold in terms of the naturalness of it. That's something that I really wanted to achieve--and not to be aware of it. It's just the world with very little CGI. We were really in minus 20 degrees out there. Those things contributed to what the film is about, I think. That's the truthfullness of it as well.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How challenging and important is it to include moments of quietness in Maudie

AW: What I'm always interested in as a director is the space in between the lines of dialogue. It's interesting when people don't talk to one another. People in a relationship like in Maudie can go for 3 hours without speaking a word to one another. That, actually, is a challenge, too: those quiet moments where people are just sitting and sewing or painting and Everett's doing whatever he does, but there's not being much said. So, you're just observing those 2 characters. That's really something that I wanted to achieve as well because that is a relationship and a marriage. Their life is quite silent. There's no television and no radio. There's no interruption from the outside world. I really wanted to try to capture that: to hear the wind and see those 2 people in that landscape.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think there's something special about the technology-free life that Maudie and Everett had?

AW: Maudie and Everett lead a very simplistic life. It's not that they don't have problems or illness or stress, but it is what people find acceptable. It's a simplicity that most of us couldn't even imagine. We'd go insane, probably, in a week or two. Maudie never travelled more than 25 miles away from that house. That's quite difficult to imagine. She was never on an airplane or a ship. She never went to a big city like New York. It's quite incredible.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think is the purpose to struggle in life? You're a filmmaker, after all.

AW: And that's a struggle! I think that you create struggle whether you're a musician or a painter. It's always a struggle to create and tell the stories or paint the pictures. Out of that struggle comes something amazing sometimes. If Maud had been a well brought-up woman who's parents didn't die when she was in her 20's and they'd have money, her life would've probably been more different. But, she learned about life living with Everett, and learned about love. He did, too. Given the choice, I think that that's what she would've wanted. I think that everybody wants to have intimacy with somebody and love somebody. The struggle is part of the learning process to be the artist that you want to be. When I first read this script, I said to myself, "I really want to make this film." But I knew that it wasn't going to be easy. But, somehow, there's something that haunts you that makes you feel that you want to get it out there. I'm better when I struggle. It's like when you're better when you're fearful of something because that's the challenge.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How important and challenging is it to know when to trust the audience's patience?

AW: The first thing that you do is you got to trust that they will want to go on that journey and to be involved emotionally. Therefore, they'll stay with it. It's not going a million miles per hour---it's not that kind of movie. What you're looking at is a portrait of a rather intimate relationship for over 35 years. Their lives are really interesting when you put that detail in and look at the performances, and how they pull you in emotionally. There's a European influence, in part. I'm amazed that people want to laugh, cry and feel upset. I don't think that you realize within the first 5 minutes that you're going to fall in love with Everett, but by the end, you've been on that journey with him. That's what we were all trying to achieve---and that takes time.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How important was it for you to ground Maudie in humanism?

AW: I think you start from that place--and honesty and a trust of people that you're with. It evolves. If I were a different kind of director, it would be a different kind of film. I'm interested in the details of how Maudie and Everett's lives were lived and evolved. It's probably unusual in the sense that we've all experienced a relationship like the one that's in Maudie: a love affair or unhappy marriage or a loss of hope or desperation. I think that that's what resonates with people.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Would Maudie work in black-and-white?

AW: Wow! Yes, probably. You see the footage at the end of the film which is in black-and-white. It would be very interesting. What Maudie did for Everett is that she brought color into his life. I don't know if I could achieve that in black-and-white. I still love black-and-white.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think is so appealing about dark themes? Do you think every film has to have a dark theme?

AW: No, mine probably do, though. There are dark sides in everybody's life.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think are the integral elements of a good lover and a long-lasting marriage?

AW: Respect for one another and understanding. None of it is easy. Also, people grow at different sort of rates. You get married in your 20's and you're a different person in your 30's than you were in your 20's. One of the things I loved about Maudie's script is that it was a portrait of a marriage for 35 years. You don't usually see that. You can't imagine them being together at the beginning, but in the end they've experienced this life together. We're all selfish and mean to people, but throughout all of that is respect, trust and honesty. I come from a country where divorce wasn't available until 15 or 20 years ago. You probably saw many unhappy marriages back then. Those days, you just kind of buckled down and tried to make it work. Maudie didn't take the easy option. It was far different than the life that she was leading up until then. There's something of Everett's life and freedoms that really appealed to her. He enabled her to create her art.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think that there's a shortage of roles of women in the film industry, both in front of and behind the camera?

AW: Yes. It's a rather kind of magical moment when you realize that you want to be an artist and want to make films. My family encouraged me, but I know some women from my generation that that would've have been possible. I never really thought about it until recently. I knew that it was an industry populated by not a huge number of women, but that's changing. It's a slow journey. It's a longer journey for women at the moment, but I think that that will change. It takes time and confidence. It would be nice to have more roles for women and stories that are led by women about areas of a life that we don't usually get to see. Also, I believe that men should not be excluded---that's the danger. The two things have to happen together.

NYC MOVIE GURU: If Maud were still alive today, what questions would you ask her?

AW: I would ask her, "Did you achieve what you set out to achieve when it comes to your life and work?" She didn't very much to create her art. You talked about blockbusters made for millions of dollars--she didn't need very much. I think that that's interesting. It's a different time, of course. She was very fortunate, I think. Her disability combined what happened to her with her family changed the rest of life. She did struggle, but I wonder what she'd think of Maudie given that her paintings are now 46,000 Canadian dollars as opposed to 5. It's like Van Gogh never sold a painting in his lifetime. She should've been very content with the success of her work all around the world.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What would be a great double feature with Maudie?

AW: Brief Encounter.

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