Preview: Pieces of a Woman

Tolstoy may have published "Anna Karenina" in 1878 but his words: "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" are what I thought of when watching the trailer of Kornél Mundruczó's latest film, Pieces of a Woman. The English-language debut of the director tells the story of Martha (Vanessa […]

Sofia Chiscop
5th December 2020
Tolstoy may have published "Anna Karenina" in 1878 but his words: "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" are what I thought of when watching the trailer of Kornél Mundruczó's latest film, Pieces of a Woman.

The English-language debut of the director tells the story of Martha (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean (Shia LaBeouf), a Boston couple whose lives permanently change when the happiest moment of their lives, a home birth, ends in a tragedy. So begins what was described by Mundruczó as "a yearlong odyssey for Martha". The main character "must navigate her grief while working through fractious relationships with Sean and her domineering mother (Ellen Burstyn), along with the publicly vilified midwife (Molly Parker), whom she must face in court." (La Biennale di Venezia)

"You feel as if you’ve been dropped into the vortex of a family crisis and moral conflict with all its nuances, drawn out with care and compassion but without judgement"

As alone as Martha feels during her journey, her odyssey reflects in the sorrowful reality she shares with Sean. From searing scenes that capture the parents' grief to the painful matrimonial dialogue (when asked "Why are you trying to disappear my kid?", Martha answers "Because we don't have a kid."), Pieces of a Woman is so touching because of its rawness, the painful realism that characterises Eastern-European cinema.

Martin Scorsese who joined the Pieces of Woman team as an executive producer emphasised the enthralling nature of the film. "You feel as if you’ve been dropped into the vortex of a family crisis and moral conflict with all its nuances, drawn out with care and compassion but without judgement. Kornél Mundruczó has a fluid, immersive style with the camera that makes it hard to look away, and impossible not to care.”

Image Credit: IMDb

An unflinching and personal depiction of loss, Pieces of a woman started as a method of navigating grief through art. The director, Kornél Mundruczó' opens up about the story behind the film that he directed and Kata Weber, his wife, wrote. "Is it possible to survive if you have lost the one you loved the most? Where do you turn when you have nowhere to seemingly turn to? My wife and I wanted to share one of our most personal experiences with audiences through a story of an unborn child; with the faith that art can be the best pain medicine. Are we going to be the same after a tragedy as we always were? Could we have partners in the free fall of grief?", declared the director at La Biennale di Venezia.

Martha states "This is about my life" in the trailer, but Pieces of a Woman seems to be so much more than that. A personal yet a collective story.

As personal as the film feels, the story is collective and resonant as it draws on the experience of many women and families that have gone through the same tragedy. For instance, in order to play Martha, Vanessa Kirby spoke to several women who had lost their babies and shadowed midwives so that she would understand labour better. Martha states "This is about my life" in the trailer, but Pieces of a Woman seems to be so much more than that. A personal yet a collective story.

Netflix acquired worldwide distribution rights to the film after its premiere at the 77th Venice International Film Festival. Pieces of a Woman will be released in select theatres at the end of December before making its Netflix debut on the 7th of January 2021.

Feature image credit: IMDb

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