Green; it’s not breezy
October 8, 2011
By Katherine Keller
Presented at Milwaukee Film Festival 2011
Written, Directed, and Edited by Sophia Takal
If someone sets up the beginning of Green for you, you might think it’s got all the fixings of a chick lit romp: an unlikely friendship between two young women; one bookish city, the other down-home country.
Instead, Green depicts the perverse machinations of a female psyche derailed by jealous paranoia and portending betrayal.
Genevieve and boyfriend Sebastian leave Brooklyn and their literary milieu to embark on a yearlong sabbatical in a big old house in a forest of rural Virginia, where journalist Sebastian has been assigned to document agrarian life. He will grow his own food and write about it.
Sebastian and Genevieve’s interaction signals a new relationship. It is tenuous, still exploratory. They are not perfectly comfortable in their new skin. Takal discloses the lopsidedness of their partnership in the film’s first scene. Sitting on a couch at a party with, one guesses, lit majors, Sebastian asserts that Philip Roth is a better writer than Proust, challenging Genevieve to agree. Not persuaded, she tentatively utters her quiet opinion, which confident Sebastian airily dismisses.
Genevieve’s acquiescence seems borne of subordination, although it is not clear whether her submission is founded on a lack of confidence in her intellect or a lack of appetite for conflict.
In Virginia, the couple’s rural idyll is interrupted the morning after their arrival when Genevieve finds a woman, Robin, passed out on their front lawn.
Robin is a native who lives and waits tables in a nearby village. She’s gregarious, talkative, keenly observant, pragmatic—the antithesis of the neurasthenic, inward Genevieve.
The disquiet in the New Yorkers’ relationship is further revealed through Sebastian who is barely able to disguise his impatience with Genevieve’s sexual reticence and inhibition. Genevieve seems a little lost in her new geography and milieu. She reads, walks, makes trips to the grocery store—desultory, in stark contrast to her lover, the goal-oriented Sebastian, who is exuberantly occupied with tools, establishing a garden, his writing, and Sebastian.
Robin wends her way into the narrative with quiet determination. She is determined to engage the exotic newcomers. Despite Genevieve’s initial resistance to Robin’s overtures, the two women soon become friends and share feminine confidences.
Except their relationship isn’t buoyant enough to protect Genevieve. She is soon beset by paranoid fantasies of sexual liaisons between her lover and new friend. Takal lays disturbing music under these sequences, music that connotes a dagger-wielding maniac on the other side of a shower curtain.
Takal’s Genevieve is very much like a heroine of a Virginia Woolf story. She’s fragile, neurotic, and her fine intelligence fails to protect her from her perverse imagination.
In an interview with Amarelle Wenkert, Takal said she wrote Green “literally overnight,” shot it in two weeks, and edited it in her living room.
Takal confessed that she struggles with real and challenging jealousy in her own personality. It is therefore fascinating to learn that Takal plays Robin in her film and that Sebastian is played by her real life fiancée Lawrence Michael Levine. And Genevieve, played by Kate Lyn Sheil, is the couple’s real life roommate.
Takal told Wenkert that her demon vanished while making the film, even during the sex scenes she directed between Levine and Sheil, but it came right back when she completed the film.
Green’s cinematography, the work of Nandan Rao, is deft and sensual and inscribes Takal’s no nonsense shots with honesty and allegory. However the long, contemplative stationery shots of the viridian forest that Takal quilts between major scenes prove not to be an allegory of nature’s power to soothe and heal but instead a metaphor of a psyche corrupted by a pernicious and insistent emerald-eyed demon.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.