Premiering earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, the visceral and supremely audacious psycho-drama, “Resurrection” starring Rebecca Hall, has been described as “unhinged,” “bat-shit crazy,” “totally out there,” and worse. Of course, these are all compliments for a searing psychological dramatic thriller that’s horrifying, and, yes, tips into the horror genre a little bit, but also remains unpredictable in its madness. Starring an outstanding Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth in two of the best performances of the year, “Resurrection” is directed by Andrew Semans (“Nancy, Please,” 2012), and is a bruising look at abusive relationships, sadism, gaslighting, control and lack thereof, the primal fears of parenthood and so much more.
The film centers on Margaret (Hall), a capable, disciplined, and successful woman whose life is under complete control. That is, until David (Roth) returns, carrying the horrors of Margaret’s past with him. To say more is to not let you fully experience the wild, emotionally harrowing ride of the film, but it’s a twisted and demented look at manipulation, horrible relationships, parenthood, trying to be a protector to your kids, and the horrors of not feeling like you can keep your children safe. It’s truly one of the best and most unsettling films of the year, and there’s a lot to unpack in it. It’s the type of blistering movie that will have you chewing, pondering, and discussing it for weeks afterward.
We spoke to Rebecca Hall recently, and while she agreed the film covers a lot of emotional topics, one of the things she really keyed into was the “existential terror” of parenthood and the lingering fear of wondering whether you can keep your children safe. Her performance is a tour de force of anxiety, dread, and panic, and it will shake you to your core. You’ll be also happy to know that, following her directorial debut “Passing” (2021), she is working on two scripts she wrote, currently shopping them around, and plans to keep her blossoming directorial career going while she acts. As for “Resurrection,” she called the acting challenge an “Olympic triathlon,” and a massive mountain she tried to climb. We cannot recommend the movie enough.
“Resurrection” will be released by IFC Films in theaters on July 29 and on-demand on August 5. Shudder will be the exclusive streaming home in November 2022. Here’s my conversation with the very endearing Hall, who can still have a great sense of humor about a movie this f*cked up and bruising.
Hi! So tell me about this crazy movie of yours [both of us laugh]. I saw it at Sundance, and then I saw it again last night.
You saw it twice?? [laughs]
Ha, I know, right? Well, I wanted to show it to my wife, who is a birth doula [editor’s note, there’s a crazy, “birthing” scene in the movie]
Yeah, I didn’t really warn her. And she was like… [Hall gives me a “What? What the fuck is wrong with you?!?” look] [Laughs]. Hey, I wanted her to see it pure! It’s a hard movie for one to say that they love, because it’s so dark and twisted, but. I think that’s the kind of wonderful joy of it.
Let’s be honest. I feel the same way. I feel the same way! [laughs]
OK, great, well tell me about that then. The saying yes to the role part, because I’m assuming you’re reading the script and seeing the joyous insanity of it and not the, “oh god, this is going to be emotionally painful.”
I mean, no, I saw that too. However, whilst this film is about very serious things being in a, a cult of one, being gaslit, being controlled, all the rest of it, these very, very frightening things, it’s not a film that is making a neat takeaway message about that. I think it is a mistake to look for that.
It’s not saying what we should or shouldn’t do as a society about this problem. What it is doing is examining the emotional rage at the core of this [laughs] and also providing a wackadoodle emotional catharsis in relation to that rage that is very intense and an exclusively cinematic experience. And you know, I look for that in a movie. I look for that in moviegoing, I look for that in moviemaking. I love the idea that you go through something and that you come out going, “I don’t know if I liked it, maybe I did, maybe I didn’t, but I’m never going to forget it” [Laughs] “And I’m going to keep talking about it. And also. what the fuck was it??” [laughs]
That is cinema to me. That’s great. To have people come out and be energized in that way, like I’ve just gone through something, I’ve been affected, that is exciting to me. I think there is a lot to chew on in this one, and I think it’s crazy. And I do think its outlandish elements are really what makes it, and I applaud its bravery and its insanity.
I have to assume with you saying that—especially the cinematic element because that’s so true—that a lot of it has to be seen on the page. I’m assuming a lot of that is there, and, you could see the forest for the trees of it as it were.
Yeah, when I first read it, I didn’t know what would happen next, which was genuinely exciting. Then there’s this whole section in the middle where you think, “Oh, I know exactly where this is going.” And it’s deliberately set up to make you feel like, “OK, this is a cinematic universe that I completely understand, and I’m just going to relax and watch this story.” Then it’s like, Wait a minute. [laughs]. And then you’re completely blindsided, and that’s brilliant. And all that was on the page from the beginning, the layers, the imagery and the dynamics between men and women, all of that.
But I think there was something that really struck me about it. Honestly, I think the reason that it really hooked me is—OK, yes, it’s about this relationship and the controlling nature of it and all the rest of it—but there is also something about being a parent that is a little bit more universal in it. When you become a parent—I am a parent, and along with all the wonderful stuff, there is also something which can only be described as the existential terror that descends on you because you are left with this constant thing of, “Can I keep this person safe? How can I keep this person safe?” Am I going to manage to keep this person safe?” And that emotion, that feeling—which every parent experiences on some level or another—is taken in this movie, and it is blown up to such an extremity that you are forced to sort of interrogate that in this huge way. And I found that, being a parent, interesting. I found the extremity of the way it does that very effective because there’s a reason why this film gets under everyone’s skin. And it’s not because everyone has been in an abusive relationship. There’s something else as well, you know?
Yes, for sure. There’s so much to chew on, as you said; it’s about fear, paranoia, but it’s also very specifically about motherhood and abusive relationships, and sadism—which I think on some levels, the film is constructed in a sadistic way the way it withholds information [laughs]—and control, lack of control. I mean, wow [laughs]
Yeah, it’s a study in panic as well. The control and lack of control are real; it’s also, it’s generating that same feeling in the audience; it’s making you feel that.
I heard Andrew Semans once say that you didn’t have that many questions going in. That you just sort of knew how to play it. And after seeing it, I was just dumbfounded and shocked, because there’s so much ambiguity to parts of it and nuance, and I can’t fathom how one does that. And the second part of that is the emotional toll it must take to play it because I’m kind of having a panic attack just watching you have a panic attack [laughs]
Yeah. Well, I understand panic attacks! I’ve suffered from them in my life, so it’s an area of my emotional experience. That’s pretty close to me. And so that was sort of interesting for me to like, get into that a little bit performatively. I didn’t trigger any actual panic attacks in myself, so that was good. I was in control; I was definitely in control of the performance on that level.
Did I have any questions? Hmmm. This is a terrible thing to say, but I very rarely have questions. Look, I like an interpretable text, and this movie is a very interpretable text. As a performer, it’s not up to me to interpret anything. It’s just up to me to experience it as written. So, do I need to have all the questions of, “Why is she like this?” and “What happened, and is this what happens at the end? Or is this what happens at the end?” Well, it doesn’t actually make a blind bit of difference to how I play it, because, from my perspective, I just have to believe that what’s happening is happening. That’s all I’ve got to do. So that’s my job. I’ll ask the questions if there’s an issue of credibility on the page, you know? If it’s like, “Hang on a minute, this doesn’t make any sense because it doesn’t emotionally logically track,” then I become a real pain in the backside about questions. And then I’m like, “OK, well, what about this? And what about this? And have you thought about this?” But this one was pretty well crafted; the part was well crafted too. It was there. I just had to not get in the way of it.
And in terms of hitting those emotional beats, I don’t know. I don’t. We make up a lot of stuff about how we get revved up into this place, and none of us really know how we do it is the truth. Like we don’t [laughs]. For me, it’s just a big old playground. I’m a child, I believe in the story and my body responds, and acting is this very odd mix between trusting the instincts of your gut and trusting the logic of your brain and trying to not let one take over the other. That’s always what it’s been for me, whatever the material, and it’s never really shifted.
Read on for more of this interview on page two.