Run Rabbit Run Writer On Exploring Monstrous Motherhood Through Film [Sundance]
Run Rabbit Run Writer On Exploring Monstrous Motherhood Through Film [Sundance]
When Sundance Film Festival kicked off this year, the economic aftereffects of the pandemic had many concerned about the state of the independent film industry. It was a relief, then, when projects like Run Rabbit Run still got snapped up by distributors such as Netflix. The quiet horror film, which takes place in South Australia and makes excellent use of its setting, serves as acclaimed author Hannah Kent’s screenwriting debut. Though her novels Burial Rites, The Good People, and Devotion all have film adaptations (two of which she is also writing) in the works, Run Rabbit Run is her first time writing an original story for film.
Run Rabbit Run follows Sarah (played by Succession breakout star Sarah Snook), a mother with unresolved childhood trauma that begins to visit itself upon her daughter Mia (revelatory newcomer Lily LaTorre). Mia begins calling herself “Alice,” insists that Sarah is not really her mother, and demands to see her estranged grandmother Joan (Greta Scacchi) who is suffering from dementia. As Mia begins drifting further and further away, Sarah finds herself pulled back into the demons of her past with no control over her reality.
Screen Rant spoke to Kent about how she approached writing an original screenplay rather than a novel, where her inspiration for Run Rabbit Run‘s dark themes came from, and what she’s learned about adapting her own work.
Hannah Kent Talks Run Rabbit Run
Screen Rant: If I’m not mistaken, this is your first original feature film rather than adaptation of your own novel? What made Run Rabbit Run cinematic from the get-go?
Hannah Kent: I first had a meeting five or six years ago with the producers. They had read my books and thought there might have been a visual sensibility, so they asked me if I was ever interested in writing for the screen. We had this really disastrous pitch meeting where I, not being a screenwriter, pitched them all of my failed short stories. They were super polite and encouraging, and as we were finishing up our coffees, they asked what I was working on. I started talking about this book that I had in mind about the experiences of parents whose children report previous lives; who start talking about other parents and other families that they miss. This has been really well-documented.
From there, we fell into the proverbial rabbit hole of exploring motherhood and dislocation from one’s own children. That then led to what would happen if you yourself had a very traumatic childhood. The conversation evolved in a very organic way, and it was always intended to be for film. Whenever we were conceiving of character, we were also thinking of place, which I think is quite important in the film. We were always keeping particular places in mind; the cliffs, for example, were always going to be there. It was actually a really beautiful way to work. I think Anna [McLeish] and Sarah [Shaw] particularly encouraged very open and creative conversations, so it was a wonderful entry into screenwriting.
I was going to ask about the location, because the visual language is so strong in the film. How close did it skew to what you originally envisioned, and how much a part of that conversation were you?
Hannah Kent: A big part. It’s set in South Australia, where I was born and raised. The specific place where we shot a lot of those outside scenes, once Sarah and Mia got up to see Joan, has those cliffs there that are iconic. My parents grew up in the area, known as the Riverland, and I have these wonderful associations with it. It’s so beautiful, and when we were thinking about a location, we were thinking about what it means to return home The cliffs were just always there; we always knew they were going to be part of the narrative. They lend such a superb aura, and they have they’re a character in their own right.
It was a joy to do it, but I had to warn my parents. They were really excited that we would be shooting in their hometown, and I had to say, “It’s a genre film! It’s not gonna be a nice, nostalgic look at your childhood.” [Laughs]
Sarah Snook is amazing in this role, and I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing the role. But I know that Elisabeth Moss was initially attached, and the director Dana Reid had previously worked with before. How did Sarah Snook come into the picture?
She brings such compassion to the character, but also that awful, almost unbearable intensity that she’s just trying to keep a lid on. It was lovely when Elisabeth Moss was part of the project, but I get that this is the industry, and people can’t necessarily make things work. But Sarah’s formidable.
Little Mia, played by Lily LaTorre, is also quickly entering into the hallowed halls of precocious children. I know you were researching real-life incidents, so are there any stories in particular that inspired you? Or any creepy children in cinema that you drew inspiration from?
Hannah Kent: There are so many creepy children, but I actually don’t watch horror films because I’m a massive scaredy cat. I’m aware that there is a whole archive and museum of creepy children, but I didn’t necessarily want to go and study those.
I think the character of Mia really developed adjacent to the examination and exploration of Sarah’s experience of motherhood. We wanted to capture those moments of intimacy and closeness, but at the same time really go deep into the ambiguities and the rupture of that connection between a mother and a daughter. So, I am aware that it sits within a particular genre of parents freaked out by their children, but that wasn’t necessarily something that we were trying to adhere to or incorporate. The writing process and a lot of the conversations were always centered around Sarah’s character.
After Run Rabbit Run, I’m very excited about your future films. I know that Burial Rites has been in the works since 2017. Are we closer to knowing when it’s happening?
Hannah Kent: It’s still with TriStar Pictures, [a division of Sony Pictures]. They have the option, and I know people are attached, although I probably can’t speak to that. I think it’s just in that juggle of trying to make everyone’s schedules work but, as far as I know, it’s still going ahead.
You’re also working on screenplays for The Good People and Devotion. How has this experience informed your work, and how is your screenwriting career coming along?
Hannah Kent: Run Rabbit Run has been a very steep learning curve for me. I spoke about the openness and encouragement that Anna and Sarah gave me as a debut writer for the screen, and I remember saying to them, “How do I do it? Is it just dialogue? What’s the other stuff?” But then they said to me, “Write it as a novelist,” and that was the greatest advice that they could give me.
I still feel very much like I am a novelist writing a screenplay rather than a screenwriter. But I feel the process has been so inclusive, from the conversations with Dana to being able to go on set and see what happened. My understanding of this industry has just exploded wide open, so naturally, all that experience is then filtering in through to my adaptations.
But it’s also very different because I have an intense familiarity with the material. Instead, it’s been more about trying to not necessarily look at the original works and whittle them away but to understand it. It’s not about what you leave out, it’s what about what resonates. So, that’s been really exciting. It’s also been a completely different process because it’s less about exploring the characters and working that out on the page, and more about ensuring that the soul of this work is maintained, as we completely change it for cinema. It’s its own thing.
You had your premiere and got to experience it with a Sundance audience. What were some of your favorite reactions?
Hannah Kent: It was so exciting being there at the premiere. That was the first time I’d seen the completed film, and I have to say that a highlight was during one of the scary moments in the film. I was hearing someone go, “Oh, no!” It was such a pure response of fear that was just really satisfying.
But it’s been really wonderful. I think there’s been some really great conversations that people have had about monstrous motherhood; about the complexities of motherhood and what happens when you do not address trauma in the present. There’s some very complicated and fractured relationships between mothers and daughters, particularly, that I’ve heard about. People, for example, who have experiences of their mother’s dementia when there was already an estrangement in place. It’s been really interesting hearing their response.
I think, with any response to a novel or a film, it always says so much about people’s own experiences and the context that they’re bringing to the film. So, that is interesting.
About Run Rabbit Run
Fertility doctor Sarah begins her beloved daughter Mia’s seventh birthday expecting nothing amiss. But as an ominous wind swirls in, Sarah’s carefully controlled world begins to alter. Mia begins behaving oddly and a rabbit appears outside their front door — a mysterious birthday gift that delights Mia but seems to deeply disconcert Sarah. As days pass, Mia becomes increasingly not herself, demanding to see Sarah’s long-estranged, hospitalized mother (the grandmother she’s never met before) and fraying Sarah’s nerves as the child’s bizarre tantrums begin to point her toward Sarah’s own dark history. As a ghost from her past re-enters Sarah’s life, she struggles to cling to her distant young daughter.
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Run Rabbit Run premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival on January 19. The film has a runtime of 100 minutes and is not yet rated.
Run Rabbit Run Writer Explores Monstrous Motherhood Through Film at Sundance
The Sundance Film Festival will host “Run Rabbit Run”, a short film writer-director Elizabeth D’Amico about monstrous motherhood. The film explores female identity, aging, and gender roles. It tells the story of an aging mother and her two adult children as they journey through life’s complexities, pressures, and traumas.
What is “Run Rabbit Run” about?
“Run Rabbit Run” examines what happens when a mother’s expectations of her children are too much to handle and forces her to finally look at herself, and her family, in the mirror. It highlights the intricacies of parenting and how a single event can have long-lasting effects. It also shows how motherhood can become a source of monstrous control.
Goals of Run Rabbit Run
The primary goal of the film is to provide insight into the struggles older mothers face. It questions the traditional roles of mothers and aims to promote dialogue about self-discovery and aging. It also seeks to explore the gray areas of being a mother, and all the love and pain that come with it.
What Will the Viewer Learn from Run Rabbit Run?
Run Rabbit Run will inspire viewers to think more deeply about the hard to define dynamics of families. It also highlights the struggles of aging, and how expectations for female roles can change over time.
Frequently Asked Questions About Run Rabbit Run
When is the Sundance Film Festival?
- The Sundance Film Festival runs from January 28th to February 3rd 2021.
Where is the Sundance Film Festival?
- The Sundance Film Festival takes place in Park City, Utah.
Who is directing Run Rabbit Run?
- Elizabeth D’Amico is the director of Run Rabbit Run.
What themes does Run Rabbit Run explore?
- The film examines female identity, aging, and traditional gender roles in motherhood.
Elizabeth D’Amico’s Run Rabbit Run will explore monstrous motherhood through female identity, aging, and traditional gender roles at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. The film will inspire viewers to think more deeply about the complex dynamics of families and provide insight into the struggles of aging. By viewing the film, audiences will come to understand the gray areas of parenting and all the love and pain that comes with it.