Among the ten films nominated for an Oscar in the category of the best film of the year, this drama, which seems as if its action takes place some 100 or 150 years in the past, has squeezed in, but “Women Talking” is actually a story almost from the present. Canadian actress Sarah Polley is one of those who switched to writing and directing later in her career, and for the drama motivated by real events in Bolivia in 2011 and the screenplay she wrote based on the book of the same name from 2018, she was also nominated for adapted screenplay. The Mennonites are a kind of Christian sect whose modus operandi resembles the Amish or Mormons, and it is a closed fundamentalist and rather primitive community whose followers live in communes, mostly in America.
One such Mennonite community located in Bolivia attracted public attention in 2011 when it was discovered that male members of the community had been raping female members of the community for years, ranging in age from 7 to 77. Then the male members of the primitive community convinced the female members that they were possessed by the evil Satan and that none of them will go to heaven if they leave them, and these abominations apparently lasted for a very, very long time. Polley moved the action of her film from Bolivia to somewhere in the USA, and if we didn’t know that the action takes place there in the present, one would easily think that the year is 1850 or 1950.
The women there are illiterate and the men keep them almost at the level of cattle. They see them as their property with which they can do whatever they want, and they are not even allowed to leave that primitive commune. However, the latest case of rape of several members of the community is clearly the last straw, and we follow in this harrowing and shocking drama a reflection of what it might have looked like in the moments when these unfortunate women finally decided to do something. After these gruesome events, the women were left alone on the farm while the male members of the commune headed to town to post bail for detained members of the community suspected of rape. They assume that they will again easily convince the women to drop the accusations and that everything will continue as before, but it seems that they were mistaken this time.
The women who remained on the farm decided to organize a meeting and vote on what to do. Three options are offered: do nothing, stay and fight, or simply run away. In addition, they have to decide whether they should forgive the attackers because the male members of the community had previously convinced them that in the opposite case they would be excommunicated and thus close the gates of heaven. And while the furious and embittered Salome (Claire Foy) wants to fight and oppose the primitives she lives with, the rest of the team, which also includes Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, and Frances McDormand, has significantly different views. Among them is one male member of the community, the previously outcast August (Ben Whishaw) who has recently been reinstated and now works as a teacher at an all-male school.
And it is quite obvious that “Women Talking” is an obvious feminist parable, a metaphorical drama about an unequal and unjust world in which women are still secondary, subordinate and victims. It is a world in which men are callous, abusive and maniacs who indulge with impunity over disenfranchised unfortunate women who are forbidden to even learn to read and write. And it is obviously in their interest to keep them in the dark, in ignorance, for as long as possible, to fill their heads with stories about a vengeful god and the nonsense that their actions on them are what this same idiotic god wants and approves. It is a philosophical and existentialist drama, a problematic story in which the modern MeToo debate is intensified almost to an agitprop level, so that the story itself practically does not make much sense.
And it was filmed there in a gray, gloomy color palette that almost resembles a black-and-white photograph, all these actresses and actors are on a level, and Polley at times tries to follow the style of Terence Mallick with voiceovers and stylizations in his wake. However, from the very beginning, I simply found it difficult to digest the basic premise of this ultra-conservative, fundamentalist, primitive and jaded society that just allows itself everything that happens to it. I can’t understand how it is possible that today someone still lives in such environments and is so stupid that they can be sold stories about this strict and cruel deity whose instructions must be strictly followed because otherwise – No Soup (in this case Heaven ) For You!, to paraphrase Seinfeld’s Soup Nation a bit.
This primitivism is simply disgusting to me and I get very annoyed when I see something like this, and entire communities that continue to smoke that idiocy that people from the Middle Ages were afraid of. I found this whole discussion quite irritating and I get sick to my stomach when I hear these Christian tirades about how to suffer, to live contritely. To be humble, to turn the other cheek when someone slaps you instead of hitting them with a crowbar, to patiently endure everything that happens to you. And that’s only for some potential post mortem reward, which anyone who thinks logically and rationally knows is the most ordinary nonsense. Selling the fog that has been keeping people under control for hundreds and thousands of years and that these same people continue to swallow, just as the unfortunate women from this film swallow all these horrors.