In this section of our Colossus Movie Guide for Women Talking, we talk about themes 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
The themes and meaning of Women Talking
Faith and forgiveness
The women of Women Talking exist in a colony of Mennonites, who are members of the Anabaptist Christian church community. According to the Dordrecht Confession of Faith, the Mennonites believe in “the baptism of believers only, the washing of the feet as a symbol of servanthood, church discipline, the shunning of the excommunicated, the non-swearing of oaths, marriage within the same church.” Essentially, the Mennonites had very strict rules regarding faith and achieving eternal life in heaven.
The movie positions a scenario that forces the women to question the nuances of that doctrine, which requires them to forgive even the most heinous of crimes in order to gain entry into heaven. The women are forced to ask themselves a number of questions in regards to their faith: How can you forgive something so terrible and hurtful? Would violence against these men be forgiven by God? Can you learn to forgive not through requirement, but through empathy and understanding? Or are you justified in your refusal to forgive?
The movie revolves around these questions as the women decide their futures. Whatever they choose could have consequences in the afterlife, which puts them in an incredibly precarious position. Yet, it’s a conversation that must be had, a decision that must be made.
Fighting for the future
There’s a striking scene in Women Talking when the women pause their conversation in order to tend to a young boy in pain. What follows is an elegantly orchestrated montage of flashbacks, of reflection, of prayer that gives weight to the true underlying questions of the film: How do we prevent this from happening to our children? How do we protect our girls and give them a voice? And how do we educate our young boys to become compassionate men who listen to women and view them as equals?
This fight for the future explains the explosive rhetoric that permeates the film. Of course these women are reacting to trauma inflicted by Mennonite men—but more than that, these women are fearful that the same trauma will be passed onto their children. You could stay and fight…but how has history shown that to be a viable option? What power do these women—does any woman in society—truly have if peopel aren’t listening? How could these problems persist for so long if there were feasible solutions?
The only way to prevent such cruelty and inequality, they decide, is to flee and build your own civilization. When you are silenced, you must manifest your own doctrine, your own set of principles that will cultivate an open world where your voice will be heard. When you’re empowered, then your children will be empowered, and their children will be empowered—and so on. The generational effect of taking charge and demanding change is astounding. You can’t be too scared to fight, as the lives of so many for generations to come are on the line.
What are your thoughts?
Are there more themes you think should be part of the Colossus Movie Guide for Women Talking? Leave your comments below and we’ll consider updating the guide.
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