For the filmmaker Francis Lee, his lesbian love story Ammonite between famous 19th century fossil hunter Mary Anning and socialite Charlotte Murchison was not so much a response to the uber-conservative culture that we have experienced over the past four years, but rather more personal for the filmmaker of The land of God.
“I am a working class person and I am also queer and with Ammonite, what I was trying to do was find a way for me to understand my journey to feel like, sometimes or often, a stranger. How do you have to forge your own path? You are not necessarily taking the right path because of the circumstances. So how can you navigate or go in a slightly different direction to find your own personal happiness? Lee told Crew Call today.
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Ammonite follows Mary Anning, played by Kate Winslet, who finds fossils on Britain’s Dorset (aka Jurassic Coast) coast. She leads a solitary life with her mother against the cold and the cold. After visiting the city, Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan) is abandoned by her husband and entrusted to Mary. The two, although from different backgrounds, soon find safety and redemption in each other’s arms. Part of the extrapolation with Ammonite is that Lee made Mary and Charlotte’s lovers, although there is no historical record of these personal details.
“I read a lot about queer sexuality in the 17th and 18th centuries and how they handled their relationships in that society and those settings. I was struck by the passion, the emotion and the sincerity of these relationships, ”says Lee of his inspiration.
“Here is a working class woman, and I wanted to offer her a relationship that she felt was worthy and just as high. In a society where men neglect her and reclaim her work for themselves; it didn’t feel like it could be with a man. There is no document indicating that she ever had a relationship with a woman. For me, it was a respectful and interesting way to contextualize it, ”explains the filmmaker.
NEON Ammonite made its world premiere at TIFF and is currently available on PVOD.
Listen to Lee’s conversation with us in which he explains how he got Ammonite on the floor, landed both Winslet and Ronan, and how the two actresses turned out in their most sublime and understated performances to date: