On the day of the Oscars we saw a post go up on The National’s Instagram page with a beautiful image of a movie poster and the comment: “Best of luck to our friend Marshall Curry, whose short film The Neighbors’ Window is nominated for an Academy Award this evening. #oscars”
Now, one thing you may not know about us is that we really love The National, so the idea of anything that would feature a National song got us very excited – so we wanted to see this short film! We all often scroll aimlessly and mindlessly through social media for no real reason…but this was a wonderful reminder of what places like Instagram can be great for – sharing the amazing work of your friends or people you know, so that others can discover it.
The next morning we saw that it had actually won the Oscar, and so we managed to locate the film through Marshall’s web page (links at the bottom). It is a beautiful piece of work which we learned had not only just won the Oscar but had been collecting a heap of praise from the awards circuit.
The film, inspired by a true story, follows a mother who has become frustrated by her daily routine with her kids and husband. This routine soon becomes livened up when she becomes obsessed with the arrival of a young couple (and their wild life) in the building opposite theirs.
This was Marshall’s first foray into directing a fiction piece where he found the transition a lot easier than he had imagined, citing the fact that in recent years documentaries have become more cinematic.
He described the challenge of working on a fiction film is trying to not make it too cliche; where his experience with documentaries was the feeling of fighting with chaos, “trying to fit scenes into a narrative arc that work with the “dramatic twists and natural-feeling dialogue”.
His cast included the wonderful Maria Dizzia (Orange Is The New Black, 13 Reasons Why), Greg Keller (Law and Order) and Juliana Canfield (Succession) to work with. His lead Maria, who it turned out had shared the same Drama teacher at college, and whose wedding reception they both attended. He said it had taken some time to gain the courage to send her the script, but when he eventually did, she agreed to do it and thankfully she did as she was absolutely fantastic!
We had managed to not see which track would appear from The National before we watched it, letting it be a surprise as we watched the film, and the minute the distinct piano opening came in we were so excited to hear it was Nobody Else Will Be There from their second to last album, Sleep Well Beast.
The song accompanies a beautiful montage in the film that shows time and seasons passing, evoking the emotions felt from watching the stress and exhaustion of modern family life take it’s toll, and setting the tone for the next chapter of the story. We learned that Marshall had made the decision to use the song from the offset and had played it to the crew and cast to get the feeling of the kind of pace he was going for.
It turns out that Marshall actually worked in an office with singer Matt Berninger way back in the 90’s, and was present for their first ever gig, which was at the company’s Christmas party! So he’s been a fan literally from the start. Their music is used in most of his documentaries (we are working our way through these!) and he was executive producer on the brilliant Mistaken for Strangers documentary about the band.
We discovered this piece of film through social media, and the film is actually one huge metaphor for our online life. Just like the window in the film, our screens are the window to others’ lives. How easily we become obsessed with people we don’t know, believing that their lives are better than ours and everything is great for them because of what we see on Instagram or Facebook, but it’s not the whole story. The people you are jealous of because of how you see them presented in those squares – endless parties, smiles, and fun – they may be just as jealous of your life for different reasons. And you never really know what’s going on behind closed doors – things aren’t always as they appear.
We’d just like to say a massive thank you to Ben Goldberg, associate producer of the film, and who works with Marshall. Ben kindly responded to us when we reached out to do an interview with Marshall, and give us all the information we needed to put this article together.
Have you watched the short film too? What were your thoughts?
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