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Busch, F. (2015). Working Through Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell (and the Issue of Creative Expression). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 96(2):477-491.

(2015). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 96(2):477-491

Film Essay

Working Through Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell (and the Issue of Creative Expression) Language Translation

Fred Busch

The gifted Canadian director, film writer and actress Sarah Polley, at age 36, has written and directed three critically acclaimed films: Away From Her (2006), Take This Waltz (2011) and Stories We Tell (2013). Her recent ‘documentary’, Stories We Tell, has led to strong audience reactions, contradictory explanations of the movie by Polley herself, and reviews that seemed to miss the heart of the film. At the center of the ‘documentary’ is Polley's ‘discovery’ that her birth was the result of her mother's affair. However, there are numerous other mysteries at the heart of this film, and in her second film, Take This Waltz. We see how Polley integrates her personal history in the themes of her movies, and the different forms of the films. Polley's moving between narrative, what seems like narrative, and a type of directorial ‘sleight of hand’ raises the issue of creative expression.

Stories We Tell begins with a narrator saying: “When you're in the middle of a story, it isn't a story at all”. There are two sides to this statement. It lets us know from the beginning that Stories We Tell is more than a story. We also learn from this and her other films that Sarah Polley is, indeed, in the middle of her story. While the foreground for the three films is different, there is a central theme that runs through all of them: sexual betrayal, oedipal triangles and the question of what is real. In her last film, a ‘documentary’, we learn that Polley's birth was the result of a liaison between her mother and a man other than the ‘father’ she grew up with.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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