After a much acclaimed success of Annie Hall in 1977, Woody Allen began a new project; a new film that will make his critics, audience and everyone else see him in a different light. The “Early funny ones” bracket of movies is not what Allen wanted this time. Even with Annie Hall, Woody said that he ‘compromised’. With Annie Hall he had wanted to make a deeper and more meaningful artwork but found himself retreating to his safe spot, i.e., comedy. Everyone would now agree that comedy did Annie Hall a lot good than bad. United Artists earned a great deal of income and the film went on to winning an Oscar for Best Picture.
I guess Woody now wanted to tread in uncharted territory; and thus made a movie that was far away from funny. Released in 1978, Interiors is Allen’s most dramatic/serious movies till date. The movie is a perfect inside look at a crisis in a modern age family living in New York. The three sisters (all women in their early-to-mid 30s) , the talented one, a writer Renata (Diane Keaton) who based everything on art and believed in it firmly had now come at a point in her life where she is questioning herself and worrying about posterity and whether or not she has done enough in her life. She is married to Frederick (Richard Jordan), an alcoholic, arty-crafty, abusive novelist who hates both himself and his work. They are constantly in need of approval and validation, but they are unable to accept compliments.
The actress, the prettier one, Flyn (Kristin Griffith) who seems happier than anyone else in the movie but is made fun of both in the family as well as in her career. She represents empty sensuality. The third sister, the protagonist (according to me), a searcher for meaningful occupation Joey (Mary Beth Hurt). She is shown as a character who has deep intuitive feelings about everything artistic and creative but she has no talent (I personally relate to her a lot). She finds it hard to focus on one thing when her mind is off focusing on something more meaningful. She lives with a filmmaker (Sam Waterston) who seems like the only nice guy in the entire family as he puts up with her and supports her in every way imaginable without losing his wits.
These daughters were victimize by the family’s mother, Eve (Geraldine Page) an interior decorator and a restricted individual who felt the need for everything (including the interiors) to be perfect and in exact order at the expense of the whole family. She once had total self confidence and poised elegance, a reason why the girls’ father, a wealthy lawyer Arthur (E.G. Marshall) married her long ago. She maintains a very pale color scheme in her designs; a lot of blues,ice grays, pastel greens, whites, etc. Which somehow shows the vibe she now tends to give off (cold). Thus, the title Interiors seems apt for this feature. Eve is suffering from severe case of depression and gets overly dramatic about anything that tics her. She even tries to commit dramatic suicide. Her husband one day breaks the hard news to the family saying that he has done more than enough for them and that he now feels the need to take some time off from his responsibilities and take a break from his marriage. The family is completely taken aback and tries to make sense of this sudden befallen tragic episode in their lives. They however seem to understand his view point and decide to take care of mother while father takes his ‘break’.
Time passes by… Into this mess now comes, Arthur’s new girlfriend Pearl (Maureen Stapleton) he met her during his break time, who is referred to as a “Vulgarian” by Joey. A lively, simple and happy person who loves to tell stories and wear bright colors (the only one who does that in this entire movie). Arthur, seeing what he was missing all these years of his life, then decides to divorce Eve and marry Pearl. The girls find her a complete antitheses of their mother and what they’ve been brought up to love and respect.The family breaks down even further. Eve decides to commit suicide once again by drowning and is successful at that. And now, somehow Pearl seem to give their family a new meaning and direction at the end. A more fit mother to be to these girls. One hopes at the end that this new women brings in warmth into their lives. Whether that is achieved, is not quite told.
Interiors is a great psychoanalytical case study of one particular family who seem perfect on paper but are so deeply messed up that one might like to think that too much of perfection can turn against you and do more evil than good.
Woody is not seen in the entire movie, which came as a shock to the audience back then as it was the first time that he didn’t star in his creations. The amazing direction was such in this movie that we are not shown anyone else in it except the members of this family, as if they lived in their own spooky world. They seem socially disconnected from the world outside and emotionally disconnected with each other. Gordon Willis photographed the movie with immense color control that it needed. There are no major soundtracks. It almost feels like a foreign movie that Woody made inspired by Ingmar Bergman films. Interiors went on to winning major awards like, BAFTA in 1979 for Best Supporting Actress to Geraldine Page, New York Film Critics Circle Awards in 1978 for Best Supporting Actress to Maureen Stapleton and was also nominated under various categories at the Oscars in 1979.
There is a lot more to this movie than I can write down. It’s a shocker and a good one at that. At least for me. Now, instead of watching it as a serious movie, you might learn a thing or two by watching it as a movie with no funny business. I did. 🙂