THE COMPANY OF STRANGERS Directed by Cynthia Scott
It is a hard movie to sell. The Company of Strangers is a story of seven old ladies who get stranded in a deserted farmhouse— only to emerge two days later without having suffered any serious conflicts or injuries. The movie has little plot and no stars. The characters are all plyed by nonactors. Although planted in a fictional situaintimate details of their own lives. But, despite its use of documentary devices, The old age. And it marks a triumphant feature debut for its Montreal-based director, the National Film Board’s Cynthia Scott.
The movie is the Tatest product of the NFB's alter ative drama program, which relies on improvisation by non-actors. Others have in cluded 90 Days(1985), director Giles Walker's c edy about a mail~order marriage, and Sit ting in Limbo (1986), a story about black teenagers directed by Scott's. husband, John N. Smith. But none has worked as well as~•~ The Company of Strangers.
The fictional premise. is artfully simple. Sev en old women are towing the countryside when their bus breaks down. With theirdriver, a younger woman played by jazz and gospel singer Michelle Swee ney, they take refuge in an abandoned farmhou. . Sustainàg them selves with whatever they fi~j in the wild, they reminisce about past loves. and share
mew iears. The film-makers considEred: about 400 women for the movie. The seven who were chosen, aged 69 to 88, include Alice Diabo, a Mohawk from the Kalmawake reerve near Montreal, and Mary Meigs, a lesbian. writer who lives with well-known Quebec author Marie-Claire Blais.. The others are a nun, a former radio broadc~ster, a widow dedicat ed to gardening~ a retired sales clerk and a Liverpool-born woman who quit school at 14 to work in a tobacco factory.
As they gradually reveal themselves, to each other and to the camera, the director creates a loving study of human mortality Scott says that it was dimcult persuading some of the women to participate Iii the movie, because they hwi trouble under standing why anyone would be interested in them. And after seeing the film, most of them found it hard to watch themselves1. think they were expecting to see Hum phrey Bogart and Lauren BacalI," Scott said. But after all, she added, "they all said that it was the most wonderful time of their lives." And the magic that they experienced making The Company of Strangers be comes beautifully tangible onscreen.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.