Pieces Of A Woman Movie Review & Film Summary
Some films take place in our memories as sensory and emotional experiences… “Pieces of a Woman” will be one of them for me… I am not talking about the effect on me of that extraordinary 22-minute nativity scene shot as a single continuous plan. In fact, I think the movie turned into a sensual, emotional experience after that actual scene.
Telling the story of a Boston couple who decided to have their birth at home but lost their baby during birth, ‘Pieces of a Woman’ could be a courtroom tension or a drama that discusses the pros and cons of the ‘decision to give birth at home’. But the film focuses on the process of dealing with pain or not being able to cope with the pain of Martha (Vanessa Kirby), who left the audience to think and discuss all this and lost her baby.
In the scene where Martha returns to her workplace 22 days after the incident, under the astonished gaze of her colleagues, director Kornél Mundruczó uses camera angles to contrast with close-ups of the natal scene and allow us to see her through the eyes of others. It is not that easy to understand Martha’s mind and feelings, despite the moment-to-moment witnessing to the trauma she experienced a few minutes after birth and knowing the great pain she felt. But the movie makes us strive for that, and that’s exactly why it becomes an original and impressive experience.
While Martha lovingly looks at a girl in the store, we think we are approaching her emotionally, but we can’t guess what she had in her mind while sniffing an apple at the grocery store. Martha is calm, indifferent, and most importantly, extremely indifferent to the outside world. It is obvious that she wants to live in herself for a while. She shows that she is particularly uncomfortable when speculating on her feelings and being told what to do.
Her partner Sean (Shia LaBeouf) tries to deal with her anger by putting her feelings into words… She misses the old warmth, love and harmony between her and Martha. It is so clear that Martha was not too interested in anything but smelling apples, eating apples, and hiding apple seeds all along the way … As Sean suggests, the idea to leave everything behind and start a new life in Seattle doesn’t interest him at all. . She is going through a period when she cannot stand the world around her, does not want to talk to anyone about the incident and obviously wants to listen to her soul …
Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn), Martha’s mother of dominant character, takes a much more intrusive approach. His concern is the lawsuit he filed against the midwife Eva (Molly Parker), whom he blamed for the death of the baby … He believes that Martha will recover by directing her anger towards Eva and confronting her in court. Like Sean, he can’t figure out that every person can experience their pain differently than others … Martha, on the other hand, is further distancing herself from her mother and life partner Sean in the whole process.
When Martha breaks her silence and starts expressing herself on the court scene towards the finale, everything falls into place. Not only does the midwife put into words how she feels towards Eva and why she’s obsessed with apples, but also how and where she looks at the events and how she lives her pain in the whole process. In this scene, we realize that we have been in a spiritual union with Martha from the very beginning, but it is there for the first time that we understand her. Because sometimes feeling and understanding are very different… The success of the film, on both Martha and our side, oscillates between feeling and understanding… Elizabeth and Sean face their own private troubles and past stories while suffering; they are actually fighting with themselves. Martha faces her pain just by listening to herself.
“Pieces of a Woman” is a film not only about the process of coping with trauma and pain, but also about the feeling of motherhood. It can even be said that this aspect is stronger. Let us point out that the script writer Kata Wéber lost a baby during pregnancy, experienced her pain like Martha, and her life partner director Kornél Mundruczó closely observed this process. Kata Wéber was not contented with only her own experiences; Following her interviews with mothers who lost their baby at birth, she first wrote ‘Pieces of a Woman, as a theater play. Again, he adapted the play, directed by Kornél Mundruczó and successfully staged in Warsaw in 2018, to the cinema.
There is a genuine and sincere side to the film that comes from the past… That’s why we don’t just watch a melodrama based on pain, we feel the pain inside us.
Directing and narration is not as important as this experience and the power of Kata Wéber’s script … The idea of giving what’s going on for 22 minutes, without ever resorting to editing, with a moving handheld camera that follows the actors very closely but does not shake at all, often changes angle, works really well. When you consider the challenges of the scene in terms of shooting technique, it is not as admirable. The most difficult camera to use is undoubtedly; But it is obvious that stage traffic, lighting and acting are not easy.
Let’s not forget the continuous long shot of the dinner party scene given by Martha’s mother, Elizabeth. The scene, which begins with the camera following Martha, effectively reflects the character’s loneliness and detachment from the environment. This scene is of special importance throughout the film as Martha is talking about her emotions for the first time after birth, and it brings to mind the birth scene directly with the shooting technique.
The apple, which we encounter in the finale, is undoubtedly an important and meaningful metaphor for the whole movie and the sense of motherhood. But don’t forget the bridge under construction. In fact, the bridge is a metaphor that contains more meaning than the apple. The bridge under construction is the respect blue-collar Sean has for his work; pure love for her daughter; the world that continues to spin for both Sean and Martha, indifferent to our aspects; time passing by; When it is finished, it represents Martha’s bond with her missing baby… It should be noted that Mundruczó, who divides the film into titles according to the days in the calendar, insistently uses the image of the bridge construction in the transition of episodes.
The “suspension bridge collapsed by resonance” (former Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington, USA), which Sean mentions in one scene, brings to mind the problems in the relationship between Martha and the two. We observe that Martha and Sean get along well before and during childbirth, and love each other, despite the cultural and class differences coming from their family roots. But the loss of the baby begins to reveal all the structural problems in the relationship that seem solid at first glance, and the relationship begins to shake in the ‘first strong wind, ‘similar to the effect of resonance on the bridge.
Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn and Molly Parker are fine with the midwife Eva. But ‘Pieces of a Woman’ is primarily Vanessa Kirby’s movie… Action lovers can remember Kirby, whose acting potential is closely known by those who watch ‘The Crown’, from ‘Mission Impossible – Fallout’ and ‘Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw’. Kirby, who won the best actress award in Venice, where the film made its world premiere, produces one of the best acting performances I have seen in 2020. Aside from her extremely convincing interpretation of the natal scene, she does a measured and sensitive job for the rest of the film without compromising her natural style.
Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó’y shown in ‘White God‘ and ‘Jupiter’s Moon‘ we remember as the well located movies in Cannes’ official selection. Mundruczó and screenwriter Kata Wéber demonstrate once again that they are filmmakers who need to be watched carefully. You can watch Pieces of a Woman on Netflix.