Marguerite, directed by Marianne Farley won the Oscar-qualifying film festival Rhode Island International Film Festival, making Marguerite eligible to be considered for a 2019 Oscar, Arts Muse Magazine had the pleasure to talk to Marianne Farley about her inspiration behind this moving short, her views on LBGT and how her film would have been different if the film didn’t include the main topic of LGBT.
What was your inspiration for this short?
When I get asked about my inspiration for this film, I always talk about my grandmother because there is such an immense difference between the society she was born into and the one I grew up in. Maybe that has a lot to do with my parents and the values they inculcated in me, but there is also a huge gap between how we see homosexuality these days and how my grandmother’s generation viewed it. It was considered to be a mortal sin in God’s eye back then (and still is, in certain countries). The idea that two women from polar opposite realities connect and learn from each other moved me to the core. That is what sparked the idea for this story.
This topic is very interesting. Why did you decide to tell this story from these two particular perspectives on the topic?
Society has changed dramatically in the past 40 years. It is quite remarkable. I feel like we take that for granted sometimes. There is a saying in French “si jeunesse savait si vieillesse pouvait” which means, “if youth but knew and age were able”. Rachel and Marguerite’s relationship is a perfect representation of that. They both inspire and learn from each other because of their unlikeness. Dissimilarity can often times create separateness but it can also be a precious opportunity for growth. Rachel’s compassion grows through the unique connection she has with Marguerite. And Marguerite gets a glimpse into a life she could have had. A brief moment that helps her accept the past, the life she never got to experience.
How would have the story changed if Marguerite did not have that past lover?
I think the story would have been very different. The film would have just been about loneliness and the loss of independence. It still would have been a story about a blossoming friendship between two women of different generations, but the stakes would not have been as high. Rachel would not have had the same opportunity to help Marguerite make peace with her past in the same profound way. I don’t think it would have been as moving if Marguerite had not had that lost love.
How have the times changed toward LGBT marriages and couples from Marguerite’s time to Rachel’s time?
When Marguerite was a young woman, homosexuality was illegal here in Canada (as it still is in many countries around the world, unfortunately). In fact, same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults was only decriminalized in 1969. There has been a very dramatic (and positive) shift when it comes to gay marriage and same-sex couples since then. But there is still a lot of work to be done for LGBT rights and in some parts of the world; the progress is meek or even nonexistent. In Canada, we are very fortunate to have as part of the Constitution a guarantee of fundamental human rights to the LGBT community, since 1982.
Why do you think it was difficult for Marguerite to express her true love for Cecile in her past?
It was impossible for her to come to terms with her own desire in my opinion. Religion had such a strong hold on women back then. Overwhelming sexual shame. Not only would she have risked getting rejected by Cecile but she would have been shunned by society and maybe even put in jail. Thousands of Canadians were incarcerated because of their sexual orientation before 1969. For women, it was undoubtedly even harder because of their poor socio-economic status.
What are your views about LGBT?
I have always believed in freedom of choice. Every human being has a right to exercise their freedom in any manner they choose as long as it doesn’t obstruct or prevent others from doing the same. That belief is deeply ingrained in me. And love is love. Whatever form it takes. As long as that love is between two consenting adults, nobody has the right to tell another human being who they should or shouldn’t love. We all need to stand up for basic human rights. And LGBT rights ARE basic human rights.
Do you think that many areas of the world are still seeing this topic as ‘bad’ and why? If you could do something to change the views about LGBT what would you do?
I think religion is an important reason why a lot of people see homosexuality as being “evil”. Most religions condemn homosexuality, which means that if you follow a religion and have religious beliefs, you will probably adhere to the idea that homosexuality is inherently wrong. I personally think that it’s about controlling individuals by using shame. And sex is shameful for many people.
I wholeheartedly believe that the shift needs to come from the top. The laws have to change in many countries. MARGUERITE won a prize at the Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival in May 2018 and I hadn’t realized that at that time, homosexuality was illegal in India. In September of 2018, just a few months later, India’s Supreme Court struck down a colonial-era law criminalizing consensual gay sex. It was amazing! They overturned more than 150 years of anti-LGBT legislation. To me, it means that there is hope. We all just have to keep pushing for basic human rights to be recognized no matter where we are in the world. And never take for granted the freedoms we have acquired.