For Sofia Coppola, the filmmaker is seemingly damned if she does and damned if she doesn't. Her 2017 drama The Beguiled is a modern adaptation of the 1966 novel by the same name and while Thomas Cullinan's text featured a slave character named Mattie, the director chose to go down a different path.
Yet in some circles, this has been criticized for avoiding the issue or 'whitewashing' it from the narrative. Coppola this week responded via an open letter on Indiewire. Expressing her dismay and disbelief that her decision would be spun in a racial context.
Beguiled Themes Clear From The Get Go
Starring Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Colin Farrell as the headline acts, the film portrays a group of women isolated from the rest of society in a boarding school. As they help an injured and ailing soldier from the Civil War, Coppola detailed how she wanted to interpret the story.
“I wanted to tell the story of the isolation of these women, cut off from the world and in denial of a changing world," she recalled. "I also focused on how they deal with repression and desire when a man comes in to their abandoned world, and how this situation affects each of them, being at different stages of their life and development... I thought there were universal themes, about desire and male and female power dynamics that could relate to all women.”
From her point of view, none of these female characters come out better for their choices.
"My intentions in choosing to make a film in this world were not to celebrate a way of life whose time was over, but rather to explore the high cost of denial and repression."
Coppola: It Would Have Been Insensitive If I Did Include The Slave"I did not want to perpetuate an objectionable stereotype where facts and history supported my choice of setting the story of these white women in complete isolation, after the slaves had escaped. Moreover, I felt that to treat slavery as a side-plot would be insulting."
The Godfather Part III actress would conclude her argument by stating that the topic of slavery is entirely deserving of its own exploration.
“There are many examples of how slaves have been appropriated and ‘given a voice’ by white artists,” she wrote. “Rather than an act of denial, my decision of not including Mattie in the film comes from respect.
“It has been disheartening to hear my artistic choices, grounded in historical facts, being characterized as insensitive when my intention was the opposite. I sincerely hope this discussion brings attention to the industry for the need for more films from the voices of filmmakers of color and to include more points of views and histories.”