The World to Come
by director Mona Fastvold
Prior to receiving the screenplay for The World To Come I hadn’t considered directing a film that I didn’t conceive of myself. The script came to me from one of our producers, Whitaker Lader, who had seen my previous film, The Sleepwalker. She and Casey Affleck had been developing the script with the screenwriters, Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard, for some time. I was immediately struck by it. The text was uncommonly beautiful—rich in historical detail; it was both a precise chronicle of farm life in 19th century America, as well as an engrossing character study of four second-generation Americans. What Ron and Jim seem to share most in common (and was especially relevant to their collaboration on this film) is a passion for detailed historical research. Both are inquisitive detectives of the past.
For example, the story of the same name that the film is based on was inspired by a note that Jim came across in an old farmer’s journal. Scribbled in the margins, amongst some mundane entries about crops and weather patterns, it read: “my best friend has moved away, I do not think I shall ever see her again.” That simple but mournful sentiment was the initial inspiration for the short story and this film.
Taking visual cues from photographers and painters of the era like P.H. Emerson, Henry Peach Robinson, and Vilhelm Hammershøi, as well as shooting the movie on 16mm film, I wanted the depth and texture of the stock to transport viewers to the epoch and to capture the beauty of the landscape. The cinematic possibilities for both the period and setting were endless but in an ensemble piece like this one, performance was paramount, as so much of the burden resided with our four principal actors to bring it to life. Fortunately, we couldn’t have been in better hands with this ensemble.
We hope audiences everywhere are able to discover the film on a big screen wherever possible. If there’s anything this pandemic has highlighted for my family, and me, it’s that there is no greater privilege than to sit in a theater with transportive picture and sound, alongside members of your community. I will never take it for granted again.