April 12, 2024

‘New look’ is career highlight

Maisie Williams is used to complicated brother-sister dynamics, having played a member of the Stark family for eight seasons. Game of Thrones. While 1940s Paris is a very different world from the Westeros fantasy landscape, Catherine Dior and Arya Stark share the same frustrating problem: dealing with family members who aren’t always on the same page, even when they’re pursuing the same goal.

Fortunately, Williams quickly bonded with co-star Ben Mendelsohn, who plays legendary haute couture designer Christian Dior during a turbulent period in his career that ultimately ushers in a definitive fashion era. “I think we wanted to try to be as comfortable with each other as quickly as possible [so] that we could do these difficult scenes and know deep down that we still had each other’s back and that we would still support each other,” Williams tells The Daily Beast’s Obsessed.

During the second half of creator Todd A. Kessler’s historical Apple TV+ drama, World War II is over, but the Dior siblings face new challenges. On paper, Christian now has everything he ever wanted, as not only has he been reunited with his younger sister Catherine, but he’s also in the process of opening a fashion house called Dior. However, there is no magic spell that can turn back the clock to the state before Catherine was imprisoned in the Ravensbrück concentration camp for her work in the French Resistance. Yes, she survived, but she bears the mental and physical scars of this ordeal.

“His imagination, or whatever he imagines, could not have anticipated what that return would look like. I think the frames of reference for understanding the expectations of ‘She went to camp’ – now they knew they were bad, but I don’t think they had a tangible sense of it just now how bad it was,” says Mendelsohn. “Then she comes back, and it’s fucking awful. It’s just devastating.”

Christian’s spacious Paris apartment has gone from a place where Catherine and her fellow resistance fighters gathered to a haunted house full of guilty memories. In episode 7, “It All Came True,” director Helen Shaver emphasizes the distance between the siblings, who are unwilling to be in the same room to discuss her next steps. Catherine tells her brother that she will be volunteering at the repatriation center as part of the effort to locate the missing who may have died in a camp. “No. Absolutely not,” Christian replies. Catherine claims she is doing well, but her brother thinks she should be careful about her health.

Towards the end of the episode, Catherine ignores Christian’s concerns and leaves the capital for their father’s country home in Callian. Her desire to leave Paris is so great that she does not wait until her brother has finished calling before she goes out the front door.

“We tried to capture all the feelings that both sides of siblings could have. The one who is the survivor feels guilty for having survived: how on earth can they survive and other people can’t, how precarious and what a tightrope walk that was,” says Kessler. “But then also to be the caring sibling who wants to try to ease the person’s suffering now that they’ve survived, but also to understand that they’re on the outside because the person doesn’t want to talk about it.”

Ahead of this week’s finale of The new lookMendelsohn, Williams and Kessler recently spoke to Obsessed about portraying a brother-sister relationship fractured by war, what Williams learned from her co-star (“working with Ben was the highlight of – maybe even my career – but definitely this show”) , the book that became Williams’ guide to this role, and why Mendelsohn thinks Christian could be a pain in the ass for his sister.

Juliette Binoche and Emily Mortimer in The New Look


Finding a bond between siblings

Throughout the limited series, snippets of conversations about the Dior family provide insight into what drives them both. Despite how disconnected Catherine and Christian seem right now, they are still closer than the rest of their family.

“They had such an incredible relationship. I think Catherine was the only person in Christian’s family who really respected him and saw him for who he really was,” Williams says. “That is something that comes with large families; you have different variations of connection with different people. For starters, Christian doesn’t have to hide his sexuality (or boyfriend) from his sister, and she’s nothing but encouraging for his career. “I think of everyone in the family; she is the one he can be his most authentic self with,” Mendelsohn says.

Support and trust do not mean that there is no tension between the siblings. “I think we had an idea of ​​the parameters of who these people were or what the roles were,” Mendelsohn says. “But ours was mainly a felt thing. One of the most important comments we received was: ‘You are brothers and sisters, so you don’t have to love each other at a lot of. You are actually brothers and sisters; that’s all already done for you. ”

The Australian actor is candid about how he sees Catherine compared to Christian and where we find them both during and after the war. “She’s a more cohesive and determined person than I think Christian is, and I think he’s kind of a pain in the ass for her,” Mendelsohn says. “He cares immensely, and they are incredibly close, and they love each other incredibly much. But he has some control over her, and that’s situationally appropriate. After all, Christian is twelve years older than Catherine and tries to play protector before and after her arrest.

Both Mendelsohn and Williams have a keen sense of the depth of the story they are playing. Williams says Justine Picardie’s 2021 book Miss Dior: a story of courage and couture was an important touchstone for understanding that: “As soon as I was given free rein to work on the character and I got the role, I turned to Justine’s book, which became my Bible throughout this whole process.”

Picardie’s extensive research includes not only Catherine Dior’s experiences, but also those of other women who were in Ravensbrück. Catherine’s scenes in the repatriation center begin to scratch the surface of the many different voices. “I appreciated how they [Picardie] suggested a picture of the world Catherine lived in without putting anything into Catherine’s mouth that she didn’t say,” says Williams. “I think as an actor you want to try to fill in those blanks. The way she so carefully handled Catherine’s story in that book inspired the way I wanted to approach this character as well.

Another source of inspiration for Williams during the series came from her scene partner. “Ben is so unpredictable as an actor; he takes so many risks, and he changes it up and tries every time everything instead of just sticking to one thing,” Williams says. “I’ve never worked with anyone like this before. It really kept me on my toes.”

Maisie Williams in The New Look on Apple TV+

Maisie Williams in the new look


Therapy and psychics

Therapeutic solutions in the post-World War II landscape for women like Catherine, who struggled to survive against all odds, were sorely lacking. “They have no words to talk about it. There was no understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder,” Kessler says. “Maybe there was an understanding, but no words to name it. So it’s a very complicated dynamic between them.”

When Catherine is arrested and then sent to Ravensbrück, Christian has minimal connections, and unlike Coco Chanel – who made a deal to free her cousin – he must wait until the end of the war to find out if his sister is still alive. lives. Once she’s gone, Christian is broken open and something he had taken for granted is revealed. “You don’t miss your water until the well is dry, and if it’s your heart, your blood, your little sister, it’s devastating to him and it becomes his entire reason for being,” Mendelsohn says.

In this unstable world, the clairvoyant Madame Delahaye (Darina Al Joundi) is an enormous source of comfort for Christian. Kessler shows how often the designer turned to the fortune teller during crises and decision-making. “The bottom line is it’s something very basic that is easy for me to understand and understand,” Mendelsohn says. One is to view these predictions and visions through the prism of a scared child asking his parents if something will be okay, and as “a way to be held in the experience and gain a sense of certainty.”

So while Catherine is away, Madame Delahaye gives Christian hope when she emphatically states that Catherine will return. “The question of whether that certainty occurs or not, and how that happens, is incredibly important to who he is,” says Mendelsohn.

Often women on television are depicted as having a kind of faith in this spiritual realm. But here Catherine rejects Delahaye and does not share her brother’s beliefs. I think it is a welcome choice to highlight this less discussed aspect of Dior, which was not unusual at the time. “Christian put a lot of chips in it. He was a devout Catholic, but he was also a devout occultist in the lighter sense of the word.” says Mendelsohn. He mentions that post-war existentialism pushed aside what had previously been very popular. “Mystical abilities were, I think, still something that was very alive at that time. In fact, throughout the period around the 1940s and 1930s, the occult – what we think of as occult things – is really widespread to a degree that we’re just not very aware of,” says Mendelsohn.

The designer is also committed to his sister’s recovery, even though his efforts have instead emphasized inherent differences. While Catherine struggles with Christian’s approach, the same cannot be said about how much Williams learned from her experience with Mendelsohn. “I kept saying, ‘I didn’t know anything about acting before I worked with Ben and I’ve learned everything I know in this job.’” Williams says. “I’ve had such an amazing opportunity to work with many incredible actors. But when I do that, I find myself learning everything again.”

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