by writer/director Jeff Nichols
Anxiety is born out of having something to lose.
When I began writing Take Shelter in the summer of 2008, I was in the middle of my first year of marriage. Although both my career and personal life were on a positive track, I had a nagging feeling that the world at large was heading for harder times. This free-floating anxiety was part economic, part just growing up, but it mainly came from the fact that I finally had things in my life that I didn’t want to lose. All of these feelings filtered directly into the characters of this film.
Take Shelter follows Curtis LaForche, a working class husband and father, as he deals with the panic that arises from a series of terrifying dreams. For Curtis, these dreams are either harbingers of a supernatural storm, or early symptoms of something he’s feared his entire life. Curtis' strongest, most immediate reaction is to protect his family, his wife Samantha and their six-year-old daughter Hannah. The question for Curtis becomes, what is he protecting them from, the storm or himself?
My first film, Shotgun Stories, was very much about locked off shots. The tension was derived from a certain stillness. Take Shelter is about a storm rolling in. As a result, the shot construction reflects a gradual, unstoppable force slowly pressing in on our main character. The camera relentlessly closes in on Curtis.
Like Shotgun Stories, this film is also a play on genre. Where Shotgun Stories was a realignment of the revenge story, Take Shelter is an interpretation of a thriller. I wanted to blend elements of this genre into a dramatic film, letting spikes of genre moments marry with a more tempered style of storytelling. Ultimately though, the thing I want people to take away from this film, beyond a tense moment or scare, is the story of a family, and their ability to stay committed to each other in the face of potential disaster.
I wanted this film to be an honest portrayal of working middle class America, and I wanted it to represent the anxieties that I think so many people deal with in their lives. A big part of reaching that honesty was the result of my extraordinary cast, lead by Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain. I hope you enjoy their performances as much as I do. Working with them on this project is a thing I'll be proud of for the rest of my life.