Excalibur: Be disobedient and break social conventions

Published: September 27, 2017

If you’ve watched The Notebook, Mean Girls, The Vow, or Spotlight, then you probably already know who Rachel McAdams is. She plays a leading role in all of these films, and has become one of the most commonly referenced actors for her role as Regina George in Mean Girls.

McAdams is a Canadian actor and alumna of York’s Theatre program, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. A majority of people see her as one of Canada’s finest and most influential actors today. Her talent has awarded her nominations for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role, a BAFTA Rising Star Award, and many more.

McAdams displays her astounding craft to us all once again with her new TIFF film, Disobedience. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Naomi Alderman. It follows two Jewish lesbians, who become caught in their community’s grapple with its traditional expectations in an ever-changing world. They are ultimately imprisoned by social conventions set by their religion, and the story follows the women’s liberation.

“It’s such a fascinating exploration, which was part of the reason why I was so drawn to the film, because it’s a community that the world knows so little about. They’re so tight-knit, which is such a beautiful part of it,” McAdams explained when asked how she immersed herself in the Jewish culture. “I hosted a book club focused on the book that the film’s based on, and I cooked traditional Jewish meals.

“It took me all over London at the time, because I had to go to the deli, bakery, and local supermarket—they were all welcoming, and no questions were too taboo to ask, which was amazing. The experts on the Jewish community that worked with us on the film were also incredible. They shared information on the culture and their homes when we were filming there,” she added.

The York alumna’s talent is portrayed in a particular scene when she expresses her love for Weisz’s character and finally accepts her sexuality. In a single close-up shot of her face, we see the despair and struggle in trying to find herself in a society that is continuing to try to change the way she is.

Disobedience’s complex themes allows the audience to examine how we all impose social expectations onto others. The film conveys the ultimate arbiter for unhappiness and hate—acceptance and open-mindedness.

Both McAdams’ and Weisz’s characters underwent a massive imprisoning ordeal towards individuality and freedom.

It wasn’t only through their breathtaking acting that made the hardships feel authentic—but the vivid directorial moves and diegetic sounds also added much to the film. Close-ups, establishing shots, and high-angle shots are but some of the camera angles that make Disobedience personal and vulnerable, especially during intimate scenes between McAdams’ and Weisz’s characters.

Sebastián Lelio, the director of the film, described how he’s able to portray the meanings of the movie through the actors’ facial expressions.

“It’s the nature of the film from the script, and how it’s quite informative. It has structure that allows scenes to become like music; how you’re watching the movement and how it resonates with the words, feelings, and tone of the film. You become hypnotized with the rhythm of the movement if you think of the film’s goal towards one final image,” he added.

The film’s fluidity and moving message allows the audience to ponder the ways in which they have influence upon others.

Disobedience gives everyone something to think about every night; how some are still too afraid to be themselves, and that as a society, we play a role in that with societal conventions. We all become hypnotized in the way we view what is ‘normal’ and what isn’t, and the film demonstrates how that could disappear—by letting go of all of our expectations.

© 2005 York University | Written by York University | No copyright infringment intended.

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