Ira Sachs is the writer/director of “Married Life,” a story set in 1949 about a married man (Chris Cooper) who falls in love with a young widow (Rachel McAdams). He believes that it would be kinder to kill his wife (Patricia Clarkson) than to leave her. Pierce Brosnan plays his best friend, who finds himself learning secrets from all three of the other characters.
This is your first film set in another time. What does that bring to the story?
Every time you make a fim you create a world. You make decisons about sets and costumes and you create a universe connected to reality but not reality itself. The year 1949 was a choice that we made and we were authentic to that choice. But as William Faulkner said, “The past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past.” Our parents, our grandparents, are like ourselves; they were full-bloofed full-bodied people who had sex and fights and relationships and and were not different from us. So even though it is set in another time, it is about us.
Elements of this film are very stylized and yet it straddles more than one genre.
Suspense films are often based on communication problems, and that affects all of the plot points. It almost gives it kind of a fable feeling. The animated title sequence gives the audience the understanding that they should not take what follows too literally. It is an entertainment that speaks about things that are very true. Mildred Pierce is not the [documentarian] Maysles brothers [of Grey Gardens]. Movies are romantic fantasies. As i’ve gotten less righteous, less pedagogic, I have become more loving of the artificiality, the art form, the imitation of life in film. That is the way I hope people approach this film, directly. Enjoy its roller coaster ride of twists and turns, not to have to think about it while you watch but it will give you food for thought. I am trying to take advantage of entertainment as not being a negative word. One of the things that is different is that it does not stick to any one genre, like a good cocktail, a mix. It is something original, something new. It uses all those genres beause they are all part of our collective understanding of how to tell a story.
There was a feeling on the set that we all had a chance to do something adventurous emotionally, a genre film on some levels, but with something bubbling up underneath.