Yesterday I saw Women Talking, and it absorbed me in a way no other film has. I loved it, and could watch it again and again.
Women Talking is based on the 2018 book by Miriam Toews. I have not read it, but research tells me that her novel is a response to the sedation and rapes that took place in Bolivia, in a remote Mennonite colony. The day-to-day life of the women and children in this community would have shared similarities with the author’s own conservative Mennonite up-bringing in Canada.
The rapists in Bolivia used a veterinary anaesthetic to sedate their victims. It was years before the abuse was exposed, and finally acknowledged as not being satanic or imagined by the women and girls. The case went to trial in 2011.
If the idea of a film about rape is putting you off, let me tell you that no act of sexual violence is shown. Rather this is a film about consequences, about women, about collaboration and forgiveness. The camera’s focus is on these profoundly isolated and educationally deprived females, who have to decide for themselves what to do, their first act being to find the language to negotiate their collective response.
Polley, with the most extraordinary care and cast, allows the women to feel for the words. Their meetings are set in a hayloft where they address each other across generations and different degrees of harm. The minutes are taken by a gentle male school teacher, who witnesses their discussions – the bitter arguments, the respect, the listening, the anger, the pain and their faith.
Please don’t let any possible reservations you may have stop you from going to watch this film. It is encouraging, despite the trauma at its core.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023