CATEGORIES Movie NewsEllen Page has never been one to play it safe, whether that means taking on the role of a murderous teen ("Hard Candy"), a super mutant ("X-Men: The Last Stand"), or a dream architect ("Inception"). Her latest film, "The East," is a drama about eco-anarchists and an undercover investigator (Brit Marling) who grows increasingly attached to them. Izzy (Page) and the other members of The East live off the grid in a crumbling mansion in the woods; they gather their food from dumpsters (a practice known as freeganism), bathe in a nearby lake, and play Spin the Bottle by candlelight for fun.
If anyone is the leader of The East, it's Benji (Alexander Skarsgard), although Izzy is a close second. She's suspicious and a little abrasive, and like the rest of the group's members, she's got her own specific agenda.
We sat down with Page to talk about the film, what she loves about acting, and why technology may be making everyone lonely.
Moviefone: What about this crew, this team, this script, all of it, made you jump in and say, "Okay, I'm gonna do these very vulnerable things on screen?"
I'd seen "Sound of My Voice," I'd seen "Another Earth," I was blown away by Zal [Batmanglij's] work and just completely astonished at Brit's two performances in those movies. And then when you meet them, you feel their energy and their creative intent and their purpose for telling stories -- their passion is very palpable and it's very infectious, and I just absolutely wanted to be a part of their work.
The idea of going in and getting to be vulnerable is one of the reasons why I love my job. I mean, maybe the biggest reason. We live in a society that encourages us to not really feel that much emotion and doesn't really praise vulnerability as much as it should. I think being vulnerable is actually a very courageous thing, and to have a job that lets you just completely let go in this way and go to emotional parts of yourself that otherwise you don't really get to see, I love.
There's a really amazing exchange between Benji and Sarah where she says, "You don't think I'm hard enough, you don't think I'm tough enough," and he says, "No, I don't think you're soft enough." And for me, that really speaks volumes about this film because of course they're doing very daring things, but then at night, they're playing Spin the Bottle.
Yeah, which is, I think, what we should be as humans! I mean, I think one of the modern tragedies that's so unspoken is loneliness. I think people are lonely and isolated and so disconnected from one another... I've had an experience living in an intentional community, and the sense of community and the bonding is really, really beautiful. And I think that in the film and that being explored and exposed is something we don't get to see very much.
Can you speak a bit about living in an intentional community?
Sure, yeah. When I was 22, I'd just shot "Whip It," and I decided to go study permaculture design and eco-village development at a place called Lost Valley in Oregon, and it was... an experience like that is incredible. It was one of the most profound experiences of my life, which obviously really helped with this [movie] because I met young freegans and anarchists and other people there who were there to take this course. But it creates such a paradigm shift of thought, it actually can be really overwhelming to leave and come back after you've just had such a massive shift in seeing the world and how things work and the insanity of how we do a lot of things.
Especially being in a hotel like this and then you go out in the streets of, say, New York, and you see people who are better off. But then there's this whole other side to it.
And a lot of people who aren't, you know? Like, I met a girl at Lost Valley who was 15, dropped out of school because she didn't like what it was teaching her and how it was serving her, [a] complete and utter freegan. Like, one day we were in Eugene and going into some sort of organic store, and I was going to get a drink, and I was like, can I get you something? Do you want a drink or something? I felt like an a**hole because she would refuse and went back into the dumpster. I think it is really easy to judge people, and I get judging those who maybe came from money, but a lot of people, it's not like they're still hanging onto that. It's a complete rejection of it.
Similar to Izzy.
Very similar to Izzy.
But I mean, there are also a lot of people who leave because of whatever complicated family situations, I understand that. That's the dichotomy, is passing people on the street and being like, oh, whatever, and not knowing their story. Do you think technology has a part in how disconnected we feel?
Yeah, or it creates an illusion of connection that's not really connection. I mean, who can really know? I feel like whenever there's advancement, there's criticism about the next advancement. Maybe when the telephone was invented, people were like, Oh, no! Who knows? There's probably always [that]. But I do feel like it's becoming an interesting time when everywhere you go, someone is looking at their phone. I think there's profound isolation right now. I feel it. I feel a lot of isolation and loneliness, so maybe it's my projection when I said earlier, you know, a modern unspoken tragedy is loneliness that people feel. And I think that disconnect -- and the disconnect from nature that we've had, too -- has been really profound and seems sometimes very purposeful. So many things have become so Orwellian in this way that not only is there, like, Big Brother, but we love Big Brother [laughs]! People love Facebook and love Twitter, and I'm on Twitter, you know? It's gonna be interesting to see how it continues because it is all so frigging new.
"The East" opens on May 31.