Movies & TV

Kristen Stewart dives into grief in directorial debut

Stewart is taking two months off acting to write a script. Photo by Brent N. Clarke/Invision/AP

NEW YORK: Kristen Stewart’s directing ambitions go all the way back to when she was an 11-year-old performing in the 2002 David Fincher thriller “Panic Room.” “I was working with Jodie Foster and I was, like, ‘I’m going to direct. I’m going to be the youngest director that exists,’” Stewart recalled in an interview. When, years later, she told Foster she was finally making something, Stewart says, “She was like, ‘Dude, the first thing you’re going to realize is that you have nothing to learn.”

It took longer than Stewart expected, but she has made a short titled “Come Swim.” Following premieres at Sundance and Cannes, “Come Swim” debuted Friday on the women’s entertainment and lifestyles website Refinery29.

The film opens a new chapter in the 27-year-old actor’s filmmaking ambitions. Stewart is taking two months off acting to write a script – an adaption of a memoir, she declined to say whose – and she hopes to turn “Come Swim” into a feature.

Stewart spoke with AP in a pair of interviews – one on a balcony in Cannes in May, and another by phone Thursday.

“I’m so fortunate to be able to have made this movie because it’s obviously tougher for women to be heard,” she said. “I’m obviously deeply proud of anyone who’s able to express themselves freely and it’s awesome that we’re living in a time where they can.”

“Come Swim” is an 18-minute metaphorical rendering of a feeling, of the overwhelming oppression of grief. A man is submerged, literally, by water everywhere. Stewart describes the film’s subject as “aggrandized pain,” saying its imagery has haunted her for four years.

“You don’t realize when you’re trudging through that water, you feel so alone,” Stewart says. “We’ve all been there, but when you’re in it, you feel like you can’t participate in life.”

“Come Swim” reflects something essential about Stewart. She is hyper alert to her surroundings and her emotions. It’s a quality that’s probably helped make her a performer of vibrant, twitchy sensitivity.

“I am so sensitive it drives me crazy,” she says. “It’s funny [that] the first movie I wanted to make was basically just a movie about somebody who is like, ‘You don’t get it! It’s horrible!’”

Getting behind the camera was a way for Stewart to be the kind of director she herself appreciates – one who favors discovery over heavily scripted control.

“The worst is when directing becomes correcting,” she says. “It’s like, ‘Do it all yourself then. Why are you even making movies?’ I don’t want packaged and delivered ideas.”

Abstract and impressionistic, “Come Swim” is not that.

Right now, she’s trying to carve out more time for directing. Making “Come Swim,” she says, is the most fun she’s had on a set.

“I was making movies before I was watching [a lot] of movies,” Stewart says. “So I knew how significant it was to protect something precious really young ... When a movie’s really good, there’s a singular ... perspective that everyone is servicing, and I always just wanted to hold that.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 16, 2017, on page 12.

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