Green, written and directed by Sophia Takal
Film review by Shirley Rodriguez
I love being pleasantly surprised. I especially love a surprise when it involves creativity and passion. This was the case when I was invited to a screening of Sophia Takal’s film Green at the Museum of Modern Art. The focus of the film is the jealous nature of Genevieve, played by Kate Lyn Sheil, whose jealousy steadily begins to consume her. I attended the screening knowing very little of the film, but left wanting to know everything. It is one thing to leave a film only questioning the film and another thing to question yourself. Green is both, it grips you while you watch it and haunts you long afterward.
Genevieve and her fiancé Sebastian played by Lawrence Michael Levine, Takal’s fiance in real life, are a young couple who move from the city to the country. The move is Sebastian’s decision and it’s clear that he is the one calling the shots. The change of environment brings at first subtle changes and subsequently role reversals. It feels as if the introduction of nature brings out the primitive and not so prim and discreet behaviors witnessed in their city life. Genevieve and Sebastian meet a young local named Robin, played by Takal herself. Robin both wittingly and unwittingly shakes up the couple’s relationship. The presence of Robin as the imagined rival to Genevieve becomes integral to Genevieve’s awakening. Genevieve’s previous passive aggressive personality now has Robin as a catalyst to express what before was hidden. The effect of the film is strong even when it is being subtle; the simmering frustration of a look or seemingly simple scene that speaks volumes with its body language and symbolism.
The subject of jealousy has been visited many times before in other films, but Takal makes it personal, intimate and awkward. Those who do not or have ever felt jealousy on the level of Genevieve’s character, cannot know how painful it is. Personally, I can attest to the pain, and thus could easily empathize. I admire Ms. Takal’s bravery in addressing the issue of jealousy because she is taking something so personal and sharing it with us. For those outside looking in on a jealous woman’s behavior, it can be easy to label it as “crazy.” It may be simple to label what you cannot comprehend, but upon closer investigation there are many layers and subtleties. Full blame in this case placed entirely on the jealous woman is not the entire story. In our real lives it also deserves a respectful and compassionate understanding. I have always known jealousy to be a highly controversial topic from it’s minimal to full blown expression. Some people may defend it and some may be against it, but none of us have escaped feeling it. The motivations may vary greatly, but the emotion is universal. Jealousy does not “just appear” out of nowhere and it is important to know where it stems from. Jealousy is defined by being fearful of losing something or someone you value to a rival. It can be trivialized, hidden, shameful or denied among other things, but cannot be eliminated. It can take hold of you at your best moments and when you least expect it. Sometimes the object of your affection can benignly or purposely trigger it by doing or not doing something.
After the screening in a Q&A session with Ms. Takal that also included her fiancé Mr. Levine, she spoke candidly and at times humorously of her personal experience with jealousy. They both shared how they have worked through it and continue to, putting a welcome positive spin on it. Green causes you to examine how jealousy plays a role in your relationships. It will push your buttons without hitting you over the head. Jealousy may be uncomfortable and taboo to some, but Ms. Takal confronts it with courage in the face of uncertainty. She serves as a medium to uncover this powerful emotion in an effort to find freedom in its expression. We may not get every answer we are looking for, but sometimes just being able to ask the questions is what we need.
Thank you again, Ms. Takal.