When Sebastián Lelio’s “Disobedience” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, everyone couldn’t stop talking about the film’s sex scene between stars Rachael Weisz and Rachel McAdams. The scene earned comparisons to “Blue Is the Warmest Color,” but many felt that Lelio succeeded where Abdellatif Kechiche failed in terms of filming his female stars without a male gaze. It turns out Weisz deserves as much praise as Lelio for making the explicit scene so tasteful.
In a new interview with The New York Times, Weisz reveals that originally the scene was to feature shots of both characters having orgasms, but that Lelio made decision to remove the shot of Weisz so the scene would exclusively focus on and empower McAdams’ Esti. Weisz champions the decision.
“It was too many orgasms,” Weisz says. “Esti’s was more important, and it robbed her of that.”
Part of the reason Weisz felt so comfortable with acting in her first lesbian sex scene was because of how important the explicit moment is to the film’s narrative. The scene is fundamental in showing Esti being freed from the repression she feels on a day-to-day basis as a member of a Jewish Orthodox community. The sex acts as a moment of empowerment for the characters.
“I think we both felt very vulnerable and there was a real sweetness,” Weisz said of the scene. “I don’t know if male actors ask this question but I know women normally think, ‘Is this sex scene really necessary?’ And in this case, it’s essential. The whole story of repression leads up to this moment. I think, particularly for Esti, the release of this big orgasm that she had was also a spiritual moment. It’s about freedom.”
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“Disobedience” stars Weisz as a New York photographer named Ronit, who travels back to her Orthodox hometown in London after her rabbi father passes away. Her short time home reawakens a former romance with Esti, who is married to Ronit’s father’s protégé, Dovid (Alessandro Nivola). The film is based on the novel of the same name by Naomi Alderman.