Los Angeles, California (The Hollywood Times) 6/04/2021 – Grace and Grit tells the true love story of iconic philosopher Ken Wilber (Townsend) and his wife Treya (Suvari) in 1980s California as they fall madly in love and are faced with illness and challenges that threaten to tear them apart. The film is written and directed by Sebastian Siegel and stars Mena Suvari and Stuart Townsend.
What intrigued you the most about the iconic philosopher Ken Wilber’s acclaimed book, Grace and Grit?
The book is a love story that’s not only told in a very unique way – by two individuals – it also tells a story about love beyond life. It depicts romantic, passionate, courageous, selfless, and ultimately transcendent love in ways that I’d never read about before. And it was an emotional powerhouse.
You said that you have been a storyteller your entire life, yet adapting this book to film was a calling of emotional, intellectual, and sacrificial dexterity. Expound on this idea.
Making a movie requires a certain type of commitment and perseverance – by anyone who brings any movie to the screen. Adapting this story to film – from a book by one of the greatest minds of our times – added a fundamental demand to also relate the themes of transcendence that is so clearly articulated in his books. This is a love story. It’s a story of courage. Though it’s also a story about the moon and the sun and the stars. In order to tell a complete story, and in staying completely true to the book, I felt it was important to depict these themes on screen in every way possible.
The book left you in tears and somehow inspired. What was it specifically that captivated you?
That somehow, love lives on. And that through words, and in art, that we can convey that.
You spent nearly a decade making this film. Tell us about the process.
I started at the beginning with a clear standard to honor the original work with integrity. I did not rush. I passed on opportunities that would have been too great a compromise to integral aspects of the story. I do enormous amounts of preparation and was able to partner with extraordinary artists in every department. It’s important to push, though never to force. The appropriate gestation period for any movie, to go from book to script to screen, differs and is often contingent upon many factors of timing – like summiting Everest. It requires extensive planning and patience and then being able to drive through when the timing is right. For this film, the timing is right now.
Grace & Grit Trailer
How is this film a love letter, and a poem?
It’s adapted from a book that chronicles one woman’s journals. The work is transparent in that it consists of a series of letters and diary entries from two lovers who express every detail of their challenges and their joys, of their hopes and their fears. Ultimately, it’s a story about love beyond life. It’s a letter to every reader and every viewer about the deep evolutionary yearning to connect within all of us that must continually be explored in order to be renewed, expressed, and felt. It’s a love letter to celebrate the act of loving itself, the doing of it, and the courage it requires in order to be done properly and felt fully.
It’s a poem in the way that it’s experiential. The objective of a poem isn’t to have an intellectual response. It’s to have an emotional experience. Black Swan, A Hidden Life, The Fountain – these films, or songs like U2’s One, or paintings by Alex Grey, are all experiential. The visuals, the lines, the cords, the colors – these things can all be assessed, yes ultimately the value in these artworks lives in how we may potentially be transformed by experiencing them. We allow ourselves to feel something. For each individual any flower looked at may, at one moment simply be a flower, and at another moment imply a spectacular metaphor for the entire Kosmos. We can only relate to sacrifice, or courage, or heartache, if the resonance of these emotions is alive and well inside of us. And that’s what poetry does; it strikes that cord. A plot is a map of actions, a poem is an experience for the soul. I wanted to make an experience for the soul.
Is Grace and Grit one of the best love stories of our time?
Many people around the world in many countries, through many languages, have said that about this book. Love is ubiquitous yet unique to all of us. I don’t know what constitutes “best” when it comes to love… though we all know what feels real. And this story feels true.
Is love always enough?
What’s worth the price of the candle? What matters most? What are we really doing here? What’s worth living for? It’s not that love is or isn’t enough – it’s that it’s all that really matters.
Do you feel that you honored their story?
I do… though more importantly the author of the book, Ken Wilber, loves the movie. He wrote something beautiful about it online.
GRACE AND GRIT Opens in Select Theaters, On Digital and On-Demand