Disobedience opens in the USA on April 27 to universally excellent reviews, especially for the climactic sex scene. Vulture calls it “mesmerizing," EW says it’s “one of the most beautiful sex scenes of the year” and Vanity Fair describes it as “one of the more memorable sex scenes in recent memory.”
For those unfamiliar with the story, Rachel Weisz plays Ronit Krushka, Rachel McAdams is Esti Kuperman and Alessandro Nivola is Rabbi Dovid Kuperman, Esti’s husband. The story follows Ronit, a bisexual 32-year-old non-practicing Orthodox Jew from London who is working in New York and having an affair with her married male boss. After the death of her estranged father, a rabbi, Ronit returns to the London Orthodox Jewish community which ostracised her as a teenager because of her attraction to Esti. On returning home, Ronit finds her Rabbi cousin Dovid married to Esti and poised to take over from her father. Esti and Ronit’s passion reignites, forcing Esti to confront her sexual identity, her religious repression and fight for her personal freedom.
McAdams, Weisz and director Sebastián Lelio have been doing the publicity rounds, and here’s what they had to say about the year’s most talked about sex scene. (Warning: spoilers ahead.)
Image courtesy of Obscured Pictures
Lelio considered the sex scene to be the centrepiece of the film. “I was a believer that the love scene, the sex scene, was the heart of the film. I was talking about that all the time,” he told Vulture.
“I knew it needed to be long,” he told Vanity Fair of the scene’s duration. “It was a great opportunity to use the human voice in a different way. (This was) a very verbal world, where words are so important—the word of God, the Torah. I couldn’t wait to use those moanings, and to include them in the film as a subversive force.”
Lelio precisely choreographed the scene. “I presented the Rachels with this idea of, they go through stages. They start leaning up against a table. This and this happens. They are on the floor, and then, we will do that moment."
“I was obsessed with the question, Is it possible to reach a high level of eroticism without showing skin?”
And whose idea was the much-talked about close up of Weisz gently spitting into McAdams’s mouth?
"Oops. Yeah, me,” he told Vanity Fair.
Weisz told Entertainment Weekly that the sex scene is “a massively important and beautiful scene.”
“Sebastián storyboarded it precisely a couple weeks before we shot it,” she said. “He made it clear everything he wanted: the wetness, me spitting in Rachel’s mouth, and (a focus on) Esti’s orgasm - my character (originally) had an orgasm, too, but I had to agree as a producer, even though it was a very good orgasm, it wasn’t as good for the story as Esti’s.”
Image courtesy of Obscured Pictures
“In that moment, Esti’s orgasm is both a sexual release and a metaphorical release to freedom, it’s like she’s free to find out who she really is.”
Working with a highly choreographed sex scene was a new experience for Weisz. “Normally as you do a sex scene, it’s kind of freestyle,” she told EW.
"You get in the bed and in my case it’s always with men and you see what happens. It can come out a bit meaningless and generalized.”
This sex scene was different. “It was full of meaning, it wasn’t just random. All the ideas he came up with, you know spitting in Esti’s mouth, those were ideas he authored as an auteur, they were his authorship.”
Alessandro Nivola, producer Frida Torresblanco, Sebastián Lelio,and author Naomi Alderman. Photo Courtesy Obscured Pictures
McAdams told Entertainment Weekly that she didn’t consider this a lesbian sex scene. “It’s just humans being with humans. I didn’t think of it as gay versus straight, only in that there was unfair oppression of their love and sexuality.”
“There was energy to that scene that I haven’t experienced in any other sex scenes (with men) in my career. There was camaraderie to it. We both felt safe and free…. All those things that you love about being a woman, you get to be with (in the scene), so I understand the attraction and appeal to that in a sexual context.”
Disobedience opens in Australia in June.