Expecting an updated version of “Green Acres” minus Zsa Zsa Gabor? Think again: “Green” is the new black.
First-time director Sophia Takal’s tense, sexually-charged indie debut premiers at the Independent Film Festival of Boston tonight, and what you can expect is a fish-out-of-water tale told from a uniquely female perspective. Indeed, "Green" explores the toll that jealousy and imagination take on a Manhattan couple once removed from their familiar city-slicker environs and thrown into the sticks of rural West Virginia.
Takal, who cast her Brooklyn roommates Kate Lyn Sheil and Lawrence Levine (who is also her off-screen partner) as the romantic leads, says she ended up exorcising a few personal demons while directing the racy scenes in “Green” which involve her fiancé making out with her best friend.
“I trusted both of them a lot,” Takal reflected during a recent exchange. “I felt like they were there to make a movie and not because they wanted to hook up with each other.”
The 24-year-old director says she was inspired to craft “Green” after acting in her fiancé’s flick “Gabi on the Roof in July,” which involved some racy sex scenes and ultimately provoked emotionally complex feelings within Takal.
“During the period that he directed this movie, I found myself uncontrollably jealous of all of these other women and started to deal with issues that I have always struggled with in terms of jealousy and wanting all of the attention,” she admitted. “As I came away with all these crazy feelings of rage and jealousy, I started speaking to other women and it seems like it’s something that a lot of us experience.”
“So, I talked about it," she continued. "Instead of feeling alone, I felt like this is a common struggle and it’s somewhat normal. If I acknowledge these feelings, then I feel better. I don’t feel as jealous... and I wanted to explore that on film.”
Like a curious cat crawling through the labyrinth of sexual desire, Takal used the film-making process to work though the feelings of inadequacy unfolding within her own psyche.
“The other actors are my fiancé and my best friend, so I felt extremely well-supported. I now think that I intentionally cast Kate as the character who gets really jealous because I didn’t want to relive those feelings -- but I did want to look at them from the outside,” she said.
One scene involves Levine’s character Sebastian-- a self-involved journalist who uproots his girlfriend from New York and moves South to work on a project about sustainable farming--disrobing with Sheil as they explore each other’s bodies, searching for tick bites. Takal insisted that the scene didn’t arouse animosity.
“The fact that I was in control, I was directing and putting my fiancé into these situations with another woman, made it much easier to deal with. I didn’t feel jealous while I was filming, which surprised me. Kate and Larry get into some pretty intimate situations...”
Takal, who also co-stars as the drunk, pot-smoking third wheel Robin, said the on-screen exorcism was a short-lived respite. “Now I’m jealous again… regularly,” she mused.
The film-making process also provided her with the means to vicariously explore the complexities of a relationship between two female characters.
“I particularly wanted to deal with relationships with other women because that’s also something that I struggled with my entire life,” she said. “Intimate female friendships are hard to find, and I wanted to look at what happens to a supportive relationship when outside circumstances begin chipping away at it.”
While making “Green,” Takal revisited some of her favorite films that delve into the female experience, like Robert Altman's “3 Women." After researching, she realized that a majority of the movies she'd had in mind were helmed by men. In hindsight, Takal believes that it’s crucial to have a female point of view.
“I didn’t really think about it before," she said. "But after reflecting on ‘Green,’ I really feel like it’s so specific to the female perspective. The feelings are definitely universal. In general, women who see the film totally relate to it in a way that men don’t. There’s something specific to that female experience that is important to explore and to have a woman acknowledge it,” she added.
In addition to helping her explore her own inner-jealousies, Takal said the cathartic value of making “Green” extended to her issues with co-dependency.
“This movie helped me feel more independent. The female lead feels insecure in her relationship partially because she's so dependent on the boyfriend. It was a really heightened version of how I felt when Lawrence was directing ‘Gabi’ which made me feel like I needed him so badly that I ended up resenting him."
“Directing my own film helped me open up to him," Takal continued. "By forging my own identity, it allowed me to be closer to someone else.”
Sophia Takal, along with actors Kate Lyn Sheil and Lawrence Levine, will attend the screening of “Green” at the IFFBoston 7 p.m. on Friday, April 29 and 12 p.m. Saturday April 30 at the Somerville Theatre. For more information, call 617-625-5700 or visit iffboston.org.