With the release of Black Bear this Friday, I recently had the chance to sit down with the Writer/Director Lawrence Michael Levine to discuss the film. Who better to ask about this mind-boggling film than the man behind this masterpiece. Leaving this open-ended film to the audiences to form their own interpretations, here Levine provides a unique and invaluable perspective that only adds further insight into one of the best films of the year so far.
Possible spoilers ahead.
Jaeden: Mr Levine, Thank you for taking the time to be here today. I really appreciate it.
Levine: Thank You.
Jaeden: So…Black Bear, Wow. One of my favorite films of the year so far. Truly amazing. I actually caught it at Cinefest Sudbury, and I was blown away. So that being said, I have a few questions for you.
Levine: Cool, let’s hear them.
Jaeden: This movie isn’t necessarily one that gives viewers any straightforward answers while watching but it forces them to really think about it afterwards which was what happened to me and my friends when we saw it for the first time. So my question is,what do you want viewers to take away from the film? What do you think they should be thinking? Or what would you want them to think after watching it?
Levine: To tell you the truth, I really don’t know how to say this in a nice way but I kind of don’t really care. You know, whatever people want to take away from it is fine with me. I wrote this movie out of my own kind of pain. It was more like writing a blues song or something like that, where I was just going through a lot. I wrote a movie that kind of materialized from that mood. In that frame of mind, I wasn’t interested in giving anyone any easy answers about anything. I think a lot of movies kind of spoon feed people, providing convenient proximities of the truth so that they can leave the theater feeling comforted and better about themselves or their life. I wanted to do the exact opposite. I wanted people to, you know, actively engage in what the film might mean, and to wonder. Life to me doesn’t have any definitive answers or any definitive meaning; it’s really a matter of your own interpretation. I don’t think films need to be any different. So in that sense, it’s not really important to me that the audience takes away one particular thing. That being said, I do know what the story is about for me. But in some ways, for me to say that or lay that out very clearly to everybody might make it less mysterious and less interesting for audiences.
Jaeden: I really appreciate that response, particularly the spoon fed comment. We need more movies like yours.
Levine: Thank you!
Jaeden: You mentioned before that you specifically wrote the role of Allison with Aubrey Plaza in mind? Is there any reasoning behind that? Was there something about her or something that you think she brought to the film that any other actress possibly couldn’t have?
Levine: Well, you know, everybody knows that she’s a brilliant comedian but she’s also a great dramatic actress. I think we’ve seen her do that much less. So I thought it would be exciting for audiences and interesting for them to see her do something different. I knew that she had the talent to do it so I thought that it would be exciting. And just kind of getting to know her before I wrote the film, you know, she really talks and acts like one of my characters, I was really struck by it. Because, you know, my characters tend not to say what they mean, they tend to use language and all sorts of interesting ways that are difficult to pin down. With Aubrey, you always get a sense that there’s a lot more going on then she’s admitting. So she kind of just seemed like the perfect heroine for one of my films.
Jaeden: That’s an interesting perspective to take it from. Moving on, What does the black bear symbolize?
Levine: Again, I don’t want to impose one interpretation of it but I was really just looking for something to make them swerve of off the road and what would be in the road that would make them swerve off in a dense forest like that besides a black bear? So it was more of our pragmatic concern than any sort of symbolism. But the obvious thing about bears is that they hibernate and they’re a symbol of death and rebirth. It also has a lot to do with the themes of the film, which for me is about a sort of death and rebirth, sort of person channeling pain in their life into something more productive. In this case, creativity.
Jaeden: Clearly right now in 2020, we are all sort of living in our own sort of isolated world. The film itself, too, is very isolated within itself. You filmed it at Long Lake in New York, just last summer. As a director, how does filming and creating a film on such an isolated and small set compare to one on such a grand scale?
Levine: I’ve only made small films. So unfortunately, I can’t compare. At this point, I would like to make a big one just to know what it’s like. I’ve always made these sort of strange movies that are not particularly commercial, and therefore I’ve not had a lot of money or time to make them. So I’d love to have the opportunity to make something bigger, and then I could tell you.
Jaeden: Do you have anything that you can tell us about any future projects at all?
Levine: No, I’m mainly focused on other things. I had a bunch of work jobs lined up before I made the film that I’ve kind of just completed. I don’t know if I’m at liberty to talk about them. But my wife, who’s my partner in many films, and I have a bunch of stuff coming up, some of that we’re working on together and some where we’re not. But you’ll be hearing from me.
Jaeden: Cool, I’m really looking forward to it. Mr. Levine, thank you for your time today. I wish you all the best with Black Bear, again, one of my favorite films of the year so far, if not my favorite 2020 release of the year.
Levine: Thanks a lot man I really appreciate it.
Stay tuned for our review of Black Bear tomorrow.
still courtesy of Pacific Northwest Pictures
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