In this section of our Colossus Movie Guide for Women Talking, we look at important motifs that help us understand the film.
- Rooney Mara – Ona
- Claire Foy – Salome
- Jessie Buckley – Mariche
- Judith Ivey – Agata
- Ben Whishaw – August
- Frances McDormand – “Scarface” Janz
- Sheila McCarthy – Greta
- Sarah Polley – Writer and director
Important motifs in Women Talking
There are some interesting parallels drawn between animals and people throughout Women Talking. Greta’s quote sets the table when the women are discussing how they should respond to the men who committed the terrible crime: “We have been preyed upon like animals. Maybe we should respond like animals.” This paints animals as reactionary creatures, as opposed to human beings who are emotionally intelligent creatures. Basically, Greta posits: when an animal is threatened, it reacts with savagery—so why shouldn’t these women behave the same? Well, obviously, there’s another side to that coin.
This is a major component of the women’s debate: do you stand by idly and forgive, or do you fight back and condemn? For several of the women, like Salome and Mariche, their instinct is the latter option. But people like Rooney and Agata push for peace and empathy. These men should surely be punished…but should it come at the hands of these women? Does violence solve the problem if it damages your soul? Should we be reduced to animal instincts?
The energy surrounding these women’s conversation deviates between light and dark—emotional empathy and animalistic revenge. So throughout Women Talking, when the camera focuses on animals, from Greta’s horses to dogs running alongside children to birds fluttering in the bar, there’s a note of irony. Animals are simple creatures that react in animal-like ways, like how Greta’s horses run from dogs in fear. But humans are different. They’re able to assess situations and come to logical, emotionally intelligent decisions. Women Talking shows the power of conversation by juxtaposing these women (as well as the men) against the animals.
Women Talking is essentially a film about a group of women who are abandoning one world to start a new one. They’re sick of the way they’re treated in their Mennonite colony and would like to build a new colony in their ideological image: a world where women are treated kindly and fairly; a world where boys and girls are raised to respect one another. But still, it’s important that reminders of these women’s struggle remain in the old world.
You can think of the notes, pros and cons lists, and drawings as artifacts of their struggle. When August tries to hand the meeting minutes to Salome, she tells him to keep them. “No—those minutes are for you,” Salome says to August. But “you” in this case refers to the men of the colony as well as August. It’s important for them to hear the women’s thoughts, for there to be a record of the conversation that took place. These sorts of artifacts help the old world make sense of its mistakes and grow. This thread highlights the importance of studying history and understanding our collective past.
What are your thoughts?
Are there more motifs you think should be part of the Colossus Movie Guide for Women Talking? Leave your thoughts below and we’ll consider them for the guide.
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