Academy Award nominated director Todd Haynes (CAROL, FAR FROM HEAVEN) has created something wonderful with his new film WONDERSTRUCK. Donning a Palme d’Or nomination from the 2017 Cannes Film Festival and having received vast critical acclaim, this film is sure to dazzle audiences of all ages.
Alongside its opening at the Angelika New York, we were please to have novelist and screenwriter Brian Selznick in attendance for a Q&A, along with 14-year-old star Millicent Simmonds.
Simmonds, who has been deaf since birth, plays a deaf child in the film, Rose. In a review, Refinery29 stated, “In this role, 14-year-old [Millicent] Simmonds is striking a small victory for deaf women who have gone too long without seeing themselves and their stories told on a big screen.”
Representation truly is essential – and in the casting call for the role of Rose, filmmakers were set on having a deaf person in this role. Simmonds, who had never been in a film prior, was told about the casting call by her school’s drama teacher, and sent in an audition video. Selznick says that finding Simmonds was “a miracle” – her audition video brought the filmmakers to tears due to her passion and pride in who she is.
Haynes is not one to shy away from diverse representation on the big screen – his previous film, CAROL, centered on a lesbian couple in the 1950s, and went on to receive a whopping 6 Academy Award nominations. Even his earliest works were filled with bold choices – 1991’s POISON was shunned by religious communities for being “pornographic,” but received the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize.
Visionary boldness is Haynes’ staple, no doubt. And Selznick’s is passion. The novel Wonderstruck was inspired by a documentary that Selznick saw, which centered on deaf culture. In 1927, Selznick states, when films transitioned from silent to spoken, it was considered a tragedy for the deaf community, as they could no longer attend films alongside the hearing community. This is used as a pivotal moment in the film as well, when young Rose sees that sound is coming soon to cinemas.
The film brings together two different worlds, essentially, with Rose’s 1927 New York and Ben’s 1977 New York. Selznick states that the 1920s was about New York being built up, whereas the 70s was about it coming down, coming apart. That sentiment was conveyed in the film in all aspects, from the cinematography, to the incredibly detailed set designers who ensured that every bit of garbage on the sets of the 1970s streets was ‘period garbage,’ accurate to the time.
View the full Q&A here:
About the film:
Based on Brian Selznick’s critically acclaimed novel, Ben and Rose are children from two different eras who secretly wish their lives were different. Ben longs for the father he has never known, while Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a puzzling clue in his home and Rose reads an enticing headline in the newspaper, both children set out on quests to find what they are missing that unfold with mesmerizing symmetry. Todd Haynes’ WONDERSTRUCK stars Julianne Moore, Oakes Fegley, Michelle Williams and Millicent Simmonds.