In this section of our Colossus Movie Guide for Women Talking, we will discuss the meaning behind the movie’s title.
- 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
Why is the movie called Women Talking?
The reasoning behind the title of Women Talking is very obvious, but it’s also very profound for this particular situation. The movie—which is based on a terrible true story—features a colony of Mennonite women who discover that the local men have been tranquilizing and raping them for years. While the men are away to take care of bail for the imprisoned accused, the women are left to vote between three options: they can do nothing, they can stay and fight, or they can leave the colony. After the latter two options wind up in a tie, selected women sit down to talk, to decide which path is best for the rest of the women in the colony.
This is an interesting approach for a film—a medium for which we usually reward “showing” over “telling.” But Women Talking posits the importance of discourse in the art of film. Movies can certainly defamiliarize any situation; they can create metaphors and allegories that reflect the joys and cruelties of life back onto the audience. But when a topic is so important, so consequential, so heinous for that reflection…perhaps symbolism and analogies aren’t the best avenues. Perhaps its best to confront these topics head-on, to thrust the audience into an incredibly monstrous yet incredibly relevant discussion. This blurs the relation between fiction and reality, as this “movie” feels strikingly familiar and authentic.
The film candidly plays with this idea of fiction vs. reality in the opening seconds. Women Talking opens with a quote that claims the movie is “an act of female imagination.” This is in reference to the accused men who, in real life, claimed the Mennonite women’s allegations were nothing more than “wild female imagination.” And that should be no surprise. When women make these kinds of accusations in real life, they are constantly called liars; people like to spin their horror stories as nothing more than fiction. The movie’s opening quote is a nod to this notion.
But that opening quote also pairs so perfectly with the film’s title. At one point during Women Talking, Ona turns to August and asks him, “How would you feel if in your entire life it never mattered what you thought?” This brings a striking sense of reality to the film: women who have been subjugated and abused and disenfranchised by society, who have been called liars and storytellers, who have never gained the same rights as men—they live in a world where it doesn’t matter what they think.
The movie then provides that space. Not only will these women think, but they will talk. They won’t talk to men, but they will talk to other women who inherently understand the plight. They will navigate the troubled waters of gender politics and abuse and misogyny that prevent them from moving forward and building a more inclusive society. They will finally get to imagine a better life, a better world for themselves and their children. They need to finally have this conversation—this conversation that has been denied for so long. They need a multitude of amplified female perspectives that allow for a nuanced, aggregate consensus on how to finally bring balance to humanity.
What are your thoughts?
Is there more information about the title that you think should be part of the Colossus Movie Guide for Women Talking? Leave a comment below and we’ll consider adding your thoughts to the guide.
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