by director/co-writer Sebastián Lelio
What first seduced me about Disobedience was the combination of the refined classicism of the storytelling and the potential for a dangerous, sexual and explosive energy. When I read Naomi Alderman’s novel, I felt that it was powerful and universal, with a deeply human component that deals with many basic themes.
There was something almost mythic in the tale of a woman—Ronit—who has to go back to the land from which she was expelled in order to attend to her father’s funeral, the beloved rabbi of an Orthodox neighborhood in the north of London. Like a princess who returns from exile after her father, the king, has died. As we know, the world can be turned upside down while the throne sits empty.
I wanted to make an elegant, sober film with a narrative and visual sophistication that might transform the unknown and secretive world of Jewish Orthodoxy into a mysterious, nuanced, and sensual place.
It was fascinating to structure the film around three complex characters with strong conflicts. During the shooting, I called them “The holy trinity”, intentionally describing them as one entity: Ronit, Esti and Dovid are the three points of a very strong union, despite their complicated backstory and the many years that Ronit was away from London.
When I watch a film, I find it exciting to see great actors “battling” in each scene. I wrote Disobedience (in collaboration with Rebbeca Lenkiewicz) thinking of this artistic challenge for the leads. I didn’t want them to feel like characters but like real, vibrant people. I love working with actors, and this film was a great opportunity to witness three performers shining as they explore the entire emotional spectrum.
I feel honored to have worked with such talented and daring actors as Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams and Alessandro Nivola. I admire their vulnerability, and I’m grateful for their trust.
Disobedience exists in the clash between forces that appear to be irreconcilable: individual freedom against the interest of the community; the loss of purpose against faith; the attraction of the forbidden against moral duty; human instinct against the divine order; the exploration of new ways of being versus the forces of the tradition; flesh against spirit. The eternal conflict between duty and desire.