Kornél Mundruczó directed Pieces of a Woman, a 2020 Canadian-American drama film based on Kata Wéber. Shia LaBeouf, Vanessa Kirby, Molly Parker, Sarah Snook, Iliza Shlesinger, Benny Safdie, Jimmie Fails, and Ellen Burstyn star in the film, incredibly heartbreaking, touching performances. They play Kirby’s family, who plays Martha. It’s a drama with deep connotations, something akin to a poem, with many inner layers. At the beginning of the film, there is a 24-minute long take labor scene. The ending of the film is open to the viewer’s interpretation.
It’s a narrative about childbirth, trauma, a court case, grief, and anguish, all of which revolve around the loss of a loved one, more specifically, a newborn. Martha is embroiled in her terrible childbirth, infant loss, and ensuing legal battle with the midwife, Eva, whom Martha’s mother Elizabeth accuses of the baby’s death. Martha and Sean go out to a coroner’s appointment. While Sean is eager to learn what went wrong, Martha is apprehensive. They hear that the cause of death has yet to be determined but that they could determine that the infant died in a low-oxygen environment and that Eva has been prosecuted. While Sean leaves, filled with grief, Martha waits and decides to donate the baby’s body to science. The film’s ending is self-explanatory, despite the fact that it had raised many confusions.
While writing the film, Wéber worked with psychiatrists and other women who had lost babies. When it came to adapting the play for the screen, Mundruczó picked Boston because of the city’s historical Irish Catholic culture, which he thought was a good match for the staid Polish society of the original. This is his first English-language production. Wéber submitted the script to the Hungarian National Film Fund, but it received no funding. Producers Ashley Levinson and Kevin Turen accepted the script after Aaron Ryder read it.
Martha belches, gasps, and laughs as her contractions begin, clinging to her partner in preparation. However, the scene progressively unravels, going from personal drama to unimaginable terror. It’s a one-shot, 23-minute sequence with heart-stopping technical delivery that will linger in your mind long after you’ve seen it. After filming that specific scene, Kirby cried for “about three minutes” while Mundruczó comforted her in the opening scene. She has done a tremendous job conveying such feelings and Martha’s journey for continuous takes.
What Happened To The Baby?
Character portraiture highlights the homebirth scene, focusing primarily on various facets of the circumstance – Martha’s distorted features, a mixture of incredible pain and maternal panic, Sean’s worrisome look, and Eve’s building fear. While the baby’s heartbeat was initially loud and healthy, it started to fade as the birth progressed. The audience, like the three protagonists, feels relieved when they hear the baby’s first cry, but only for a bit of a moment. Eve, the substitute midwife, notices the baby girl’s skin turning blue and her incapacity to breathe. The paramedics arrive, and the film begins with its first shot, depicting the aftermath of a disaster. Though it is implied that the infant was taken away in an ambulance, it was likely too late to save her, and she died soon after. Eve faces allegations of child neglect and manslaughter. The sadness of losing a newborn child strains the couple’s relationship.
What Happens To The Couple?
They reach a point where the two appear to detest one other. While Sean expresses his frustrations by cursing hapless doctors who cannot provide a medical explanation for the baby’s death, cheating on his wife with her cousin and attorney, Suzanne, and relapsing into excessive drug usage… Martha internalizes her trauma, resulting in detachment, which irritates everyone around her, particularly her overbearing mother, Elizabeth, who holds her responsible for the child’s death. It gets to the point that Martha’s aversion to forced intercourse earns her the moniker “liar” from her husband, who is having illicit escapades.
Apples are incorporated into the central metaphorical thread of this film because the fruit represents both fertility and ruin, along with life and death. Martha describes the scent of her newborn baby as that of fresh apples at one point, and audiences subsequently see her clutching a half-eaten apple despite its rottenness, which haunts her.
What Does The End Mean?
A small girl climbs a fruit-laden apple tree and walks with Martha towards her house years later, towards the film’s end. It’s implied that this daughter, Lucy or Lucianna, is Martha’s child and that she’s now flowering past her pain into a promising future. We don’t know if Martha meets another partner to have a child with or if she is adopted, but the film keeps us on the edge of our seats from beginning to end.
The film has garnered commendable reviews and is airing on Netflix. Pieces of A Woman is partially based on Kornél Mundruczó’s and Kata Wéber’s real-life experiences. It is a must-watch if you’re an art film lover.