She Would Move the Tree Rather More to the Middle is a short film by Anna Maguire, inspired by a letter and the book To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. It’s a beautiful and fascinating piece and we couldn’t help but have certain questions about the film which we needed Anna to help us with. So we fired over them over to her and here’s what she has came back to us with:
A brief introduction to yourself and the film.
She would move the tree rather more to the middle came about thanks to The Festival of Letters in Milan and their collaboration with The London Short Film Festival. My first short film ‘Don’t forget your mittens’ screened at LSFF in 2014, and since then they have been incredibly supportive of my work. I was asked to make a film based on the winning letter by Giulia Micheli in the 2014 category ‘Letter to an Ex’. I found the letter incredibly moving in its honesty and its bravery and I wanted to capture those qualities in the film.
At a first glance, the film appears to be an exploration of gender identity and trans identity, which is currently a contentious subject in filmmaking. Without giving too much of the plot away, is this something you set out to explore or touch on? How did you access this topic in the creation of the film?
The film didn’t explicitly set out to look at trans identity, nor is it meant to be any kind of treatise on how women specifically lose themselves in romantic relationships with men. In terms of its relationship to gender, I wanted to be true to the letter itself,
but what I felt was more important was how relationships can totally take over your identity, whichever gender you identify as, whether with a man or a woman, with family members or friends as well as romantic partners.
It is easy to get lost, which I felt was a theme of the letter in general – getting lost in your work, or more specifically, becoming faceless at work, becoming so entwined with a lover or partner that there is nothing left of yourself. There is a lot of courage required to break free of these cycles and it might not always feel like the right decision. I wanted to capture the resolution of the unknown, and how we must throw ourselves into the unknown to learn more about ourselves, and to free ourselves.
What was it that captured you about ‘To The Lighthouse’, where did the inspiration come from exactly?
I read ‘To The Lighthouse’ at school. It is a book that has always stuck with me – the passages about time passing, about the house being taken over by the power of grass and thistles has always been a strange comfort to me. The other part that remained present in my mind and that leapt back to me upon reading the letter, was the section where Lily, one of the protagonists is both jealous of a new engagement, as well as relieved that it is not her –
For at any rate, she said to herself, catching sight of the salt cellar on the pattern, she need not marry, thank Heaven: she need not undergo that degradation. She was saved from that dilution. She would move the tree rather more to the middle.
There is a tension here between freedom of self-expression (Lily is a painter, and the tree she is referring to is in a landscape she is in the process of painting), and desire for proximity, for love and understanding. I think this is a tension that we navigate daily in our personal relationships and is not just an idea relegated to the 1920s.
Is the dilution of the self always an unavoidable consequence of love?
No, I don’t think so. Or at least I hope not! I think that would make for a very depressing state of affairs. But I do think it’s easy to fall into a stronger personality, or someone else’s way of doing things, of thinking things. I think it displays a kind of empathy, to want to explore another person’s mind, however it’s something to be aware of and question, just as I feel Giulia is doing in the letter and in the film. But I don’t think that Lily’s answer is the only one.
Thank you Anna for taking the time for this short interview! :)
She Would Move the Tree Rather More to the Middle (UK) will be screened at No Gloss Film Festival 2015.