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Nathalie Biancheri, writer/director of Wolf

Focus Features releases Wolf at in select theaters on December 3rd, 2021.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Between entertaining the audience and provoking them emotionally as well as intellectually, which of those was the most challenging to tweak in the editing room?

Nathalie Biancheri: I think that the marriage of the three was the hardest thing to do to keep in the film. I felt that the intellectual provocation was slightly inherent to the material and the world that was being created. By default, I hoped that it's relatively entertaining, but, at the same time, I hoped to keep the emotional connection to the character. It was harder than I had foreseen because Jacob is such a hermetic character. He almost says nothing. You enter the film not knowing what his condition is and how he feels. It is kind of sad, I suppose, at some point, but it does take its time to do that. It would've felt like a betrayal of the character for him to be overly verbose. So, what I realized in the edit was that we had to somehow curb certain other things and other characters which were a little bit more prevalent in the script. Also, we had to curb slightly more moments of ensemble, and moments of tenderness and humor which, unfortunately, just couldn't co-exist with the fact that we had to be so close to Jacob and we had to be so stuck to his plight because, otherwise, the film just wouldn't carry. You just wouldn't care. If you don't care about him, then it's a very, very hard sell. Negotiating emotion within entertainment and intellectual thought was probably the hardest thing.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How fair would it be to say that the audience is another character in the film because they're a voyeur into the characters' lives?  

NB: They're more of a character than in other films because we are always, sort of, observing fragments of stolen lives when we're watching cinema. Maybe in the fact that there's a slight manipulation of the audience which, perhaps, gave you this word of voyeurism. Of course they don't know, so you are kind of on the outside. Perhaps, you're also potentially judging. It was interesting to see a lot of laughs sometimes. Not that I didn't think that there could be humor, but I guess that not knowing where the film is going and feeling slightly uncomfortable and "What is the tone?" and "Where are we?", and then hopefully feeling, by the end of the film, that actually there's a huge amount of empathy for the characters in the way that they're portrayed. I hope that the audience feels that same empathy. Maybe, in that sense, yes, you do go through different stages and feel like you've observed something that you weren't expecting.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How challenging was it to decide how to incorporate exposition and how much exposition to include about Jacob and the clinic at the beginning of the film?  

NB: It was definitely a point of discussion in the edit. In the script, there was actually a little bit more information. You had the first meeting with the doctor and so on. Then I realized that it was clear in the film that it wasn't that necessary. But then, at the same time, having lost some information, there was a bit of debate whether we were too disconnected from the character. In my mind, I wanted people to know just enough to not feel completely pushed out and have some kind of walking stick in this world. I'm taking you into a place that you don't know with a tone that's not clear, but also, simultaneously, I felt that this is a film that's all shot in one location which very much hinges around an almost semi-silent character. It's repetitive and I'm going to put you through sessions upon sessions upon sessions. So, if you know everything, there's nothing to uncover and there's no mystery. It was really, really tricky. I hope I got it right. I'm not sure, you know? It was an endless push and pull of more or less and more or less and more or less. 6:09

NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think that Jacob is trapped in emotional prison? Which do you think is more toxic for him: the emotional prison, if that's the right choice of words, or the clinic that he's confined in?

NB: I guess the emotional prison or the prison of habits of life. I think that the hardest thing for Jacob is to leave behind the illusion of a future life, of normality and of your parents, especially, it always is at that age as well. The push and pull between letting go. Escaping a prison of societal norms is the ultimate escape, really. It goes beyond the clinic and beyond Wildcat. It's renouncing life as we know it, really. I think that that's extremely difficult.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Acting coach Moni Yakim sees acting as a form of dance. When Jacob and Wildcat are moving around like animals, do you think that they're essentially dancing?  

NB: It's so funny because I'm super-clumsy and I'm like zero a physical person. I definitely thought that I'm much more cerebral than in any way physical. A lot of the work that I needed to do as a filmmaker, and still need to do, is kind of letting go of over-intellectualizing everything. It's funny that I made such a physical film. [laughs] Yes, you're spot on. We used to call the scene with Lily and George "The Dance" because it, effectively, is a dance. Definitely, before this film, I never thought of acting as dancing. It's just because I come from such a different place and I'm just a different kind of person and can't dance. I can't act either, for that matter. That's certainly something that I've felt a lot in this, especially because what dance creates is tension among human beings and that ineffable something which connects them. That's the most interesting thing about acting. What you're looking for, always, is a fragment of something---some truth or some mystery or something enigmatic that you just want to observe for a moment. That scene was such a lesson in that because we rehearsed and rehearsed and we choreographed and then broke the choreography. Ultimately, I felt like I just had to search for moments of truth. They could only last for a tiny bit of a second and then they're going to disappear. It comes from that kind of connection between these two people.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What was the process like to decide to have the patients in Wolf dance to the song "Gloria" by Umberto Tozzi?  

NB: I don't know why I wrote that. It was always in the script. The only deliberation was whether to have it in Italian or in English. I have super cheesy taste in music. I do kind of like those very cheesy songs sometimes and I thought it was just a great track. The contrast was what was going on and it was going to be brilliant. There wasn't really a discussion. At some point, I had it in English, but then I thought, "I'm Italian. There's nothing left of Italian in me anymore even though I grew up there and I'm definitely Italian." So, I was like, "I'm going to be a little homage in there." That's the good thing about filmmaking. You can do that kind of stuff, so I can put in an Italian crazy song in an institution that takes place in the middle of nowhere with people who think that they're animals.

NYC MOVIE GURU: If Jacob were to ask you advice on how to discover himself in a dehumanizing world, what advice would you give him?  

NB: It's so complex. I wouldn't be making films if I knew the answer to that. I'd be living a much more zen and less convoluted life. [laughs] The journey of the discovery of ourselves for everyone in different measures, whether you think you're a wolf or you don't and have less seemingly complex issues, it's the mission of life and a very, very difficult one. I don't know if there are answers. I definitely don't have an answer for him and don't have an answer for any of them, really, or judgement or anything. I generally just wanted to portray a small slice of these characters.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Which film do you think would pair well with Wolf like cheese and wine?  

NB: Maybe something like Border, the Swedish film. It's more of a fairy tale, but it's definitely animalistic and bonkers. That would be a great film to pair with Wolf.

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