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POSSESSION

About The Production
"I think great art comes from great passion. It's not about whether you are permitted to explore life, but rather whether you allow yourself to feel life," comments producer Paula Weinstein.

Weinstein read A.S. Byatt's 1990 novel Possession just before it won the Booker Prize and was immediately taken with its themes and passion: "I loved the book and was very impressed with it. I optioned the novel and met with Antonia Byatt, who is a remarkable woman. We both knew it could be difficult to adapt. It took years to find the right filmmaker and screenwriter — who happened to be the same in this case: Neil LaBute. His own work, which has not been romantic, is really about sexual politics, which is at the center of the novel. He was therefore able to give weight to the characters in translating them to the screen.

"Neil has an enormous understanding and passion for the material: the struggle between men and women, be they Victorian or contemporary. Dialogues between the sexes, about who's in power, who's the boss, what does it mean to be sexual and to love — that's all Neil LaBute territory."

Director and screenwriter LaBute came aboard the film as an avowed fan of the novel: "It was a lovely and smart book. I was curious as to who would try to make a movie version. When I had the chance to start working on it, I began to think about how to make it into a film. I worked on the script for a year and a half, first with [screenwriter] Laura Jones and then alone. It was very hard to find the right balance between the two sets of characters and the two worlds. Possession is about the discovery of tangible things — letters, the past —but also of things about oneself and of how the past can reflect itself upon the present. There are two sets of characters in two different relationships who find things in themselves that they did not think possible."

LaBute describes his narrative as "a bit like emotional archaeology. The story's academics have never known of the relationship that took place between two revered poets. They discover that not only did Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte meet but in fact fell in love and ran away for a brief period. It's great for the audience because we can watch the academics come up with ideas about what they think the people have done and what their work meant, yet only the viewer walks away with the complete picture."

Weinstein was delighted that LaBute was able to retain so many of the novel's central themes: "The Victorian and the contemporary love stories are quite different. Surprisingly, the Victorian love story is much more liberated, passionate and daring than the contemporary one, which is filled with all of our post-Freudian analytic angst."

It is in the investigating of a mystery that the latter-day love story develops —"two letters found in a book are the catalyst for this story," explains LaBute. "In doing something as incredibly routine as opening up a book, something slips out that changes the personal and professional lives of a number of people. All that is known about the poets is that Ash was in a very stable marriage and that Christabel was a very new woman, author, lesbian and proto-feminist. It is thought unlikely that these poets ever met before, but Roland and Maud run breathlessly along to try and find out what happened. At the same time, as they're falling deeper and deeper into this world that becomes more emotional than intellec

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