Multi-award winning Australian director Benedict Andrews has worked with some of our finest actors on stage. He’s directed acclaimed productions of the work of William Shakespeare, Anton Checkhov and Tennessee Williams with actors like Isabelle Huppert, Cate Blanchett and Gillian Anderson. Andrews has also worked extensively in opera, and now he’s making his film debut with Una, an adaptation of David Harrower‘s popular 2005 play Blackbird.
Two-time Oscar nominee Rooney Mara stars as Una, a young woman who was sexually abused by an older man, Ray (Ben Mendelsohn) fifteen years ago. Una tracks Ray down and confronts him in his workplace, a secluded and labyrinthine factory. Harrower wrote this screenplay, and Una is surprisingly cinematic because he and Andrews have made it even more claustrophobic than a stage production. It’s a focused, unflinching portrait of a deeply, intricately damaged relationship. The performances by Mara, Mendelsohn and recent Emmy winner Riz Ahmed in a supporting role are all riveting, and though the subject matter here is disturbing, it’s treated with the gravity it merits, and the film is compulsively watchable and provocative.
Parade spoke with Andrews about Una, working with brilliant actors, and how we confront the past.
Some cinematic adaptations of plays stumble because they don’t really open up. Una works because you’ve taken it in the other direction and made it even more claustrophobic than a stage play. Is this a fair assessment?
I think that’s a good description. Of course it’s always a tension when a film comes from a play. The last thing I ever wanted to do was do a filmed version of a play. Becoming a filmmaker, I want to make things that are intrinsically cinematic and explore the possibility of the medium. There is something theatrically claustrophobic about the nature between Una and Ray. It’s entirely exclusive. In the theater, hundreds of people sit there watching these…