The East, written by Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling, is easily on of the best films you will see this year. Also directed by Batmanglij and starring Marling, this is the second offering from the innovative and intensely creative duo whose first feature Sound Of My Voice received critical acclaim after it’s release in 2011. If anything, The East highlights the importance of young creatives and in particular filmmakers who are willing to push the boundaries and explore highly sensitive and contentious issues. Drawing parallels from major recent events such as Wikileaks and the BP oil spill, The East is a very important and a relevant, modern commentary on the state of the world we live in. Inspired by the concept of Buy Nothing Day, an international day of protest against consumerism, Marling and Batmanglij spent a summer living by these ideals.
Portable spoke to two of the film’s stars the incomparable Ellen Page of Juno and Inception fame, and Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood), YEP OMG ERIC! The East follows the exploits of an anarchist collective of the same name which is infiltrated by Marling’s character Sarah Moss, an agent from a private intelligence firm. Headed by Benji (Skarsgard) and his most promising protege, Izzy (Page), The East attacks global conglomerates who have committed a range of environmental, medical and social injustices. However, it is not until Sarah begins to feel compassion for the group and suddenly questions her whole operation that the film really captures the viewers attention and makes them question who really is at fault.
Watch the trailer and check the new pictures of “The East”:
Portable: What drew you to the story, especially due to it’s timely and contentious nature?
Ellen Page: Firstly, I think it’s an incredible screenplay. So when something comes across that well written, you’re just fortunate to even read it. It’s such a beautiful piece of writing. Then a lot of the ideas in the film are a lot of ideas that I am already really interested in and think about and read about and then the opportunity to meet Zal and Brit, they’re just incredible people so I was desperately hoping they would want me to be in their movie. I just feel fortunate to be involved and the experience was fantastic.
Alexander Skarsgard: It starts with a script. You either respond to it or not. You don’t read a script like that very often.
P: You are part of an anarchist collective in the film, how did you prepare for your roles?
Ellen Page: It was worlds that I was already interested in and familiar with but on top of that I read anarchist manifestos and a lot of actually really interesting literature that’s on trial in some places for crimes, but a lot of really interesting things to read just to get in the headspace and the mentality of those communities.
Alexander Skarsgard: I read up on groups like The Weathermen and studied that and also talking a lot to Zal and Brit about their experiences of hanging out with freegans and anarchists. Just talking to them about the camaraderie and that lifestyle really influenced my character.
P: Because it is something you are particularly interested in in your personal life, had you been waiting for a film and role like this?
Ellen Page: Maybe without knowing it. It’s like the first film that I feel like is really tapping into the sort of current zeitgeist. I feel like a lot of people feel this way whether you’re Republican or a Democrat or an Athiest or a Buddhist, whatever. I think a lot of people are frustrated with a lot of blatant injustices in the world and unfairness and it seems like it’s getting worse and the gap is getting bigger and corporate greed is appauling and what we’re doing to the environment. Then when there is absolutely no accountability for it it becomes so frustrating, and then nothing is being done about it. I think a lot of people feel that discomfort and the rumble and the film started exploring a lot of these ideas and asking a lot of questions and doing it in a way that’s suspenseful and entertaining and heartfelt and what a great thing to be involved in. I was so excited to be able to play this character. It was just a bit of a dream. Anything where I can lie in the dirt in my wardrobe is like a dream for me.
Alexander Skarsgard: It felt very relevant and very important and it was a script that made me think and it wasn’t preachy at all. It wasn’t clear who the good guy or the bad guy was. It wasn’t black and white like that. It made me think about what they are struggling with internally as well. Like what’s ok, how far is it ok to go? How far are you willing to go for a cause that you really believe in. Is it ok to hurt someone, is it ok to kidnap someone, is it ok to kill someone? It wasn’t like Zal and Brit wrote it as if this is the answer, it just made me think a lot in a very intelligent way. That’s what I hope people will feel as well when they see the film, to think about it and talk to their friends about it without feeling like you have been force fed the opinion of me or Ellen or the filmmakers.
P: A really interesting and realistic element of the film was the use of social media, what is your opinion on social media and how it can ultimately influence people?
Alexander Skarsgard: Ellen is more active than I am on social media, I’m still learning. It’s amazing that you can take a picture with your phone and someone in Nebraska can see that? I made another film just before called The Disconnect and that’s about social media and about how that affects people with internet bullies and identity theft. This has a bit about that as well. I thought it was very interesting how people think they stay in touch with someone that they haven’t seen in years, like Doc has that fake Facebook page, so people think they are staying in touch because they see these ‘updates’ on his wall. So it’s interesting how you kind of replace this real relationship with social media. I also think of course this group use the internet because the corporations they attack have a lot of money, a lot of power, a lot of lobbyists that can shut them down and silence them, but what is great is that when they pull something that is as dramatic as they do, the videos are very dramatic, when you put something like that on YouTube, no matter how big these corporations are they can’t stop that because it will go viral within a couple of hours. It will have like millions of hits. So it’s a way for a group like The East, that live in the woods, in the middle of nowhere, that are hiding to connect with the world and to get their message out there.
Source: Portable TV