Joining Angelina Jolie Pitt both in production duties and in front of the screen for Universal Pictures’ new romantic drama By the Sea is husband Brad Pitt.
“By the Sea” follows an American writer named Roland (Pitt) and his wife, Vanessa (Jolie Pitt), who arrive in a tranquil and picturesque seaside resort in 1970s France, their marriage in apparent crisis. As they spend time with fellow travelers, the couple begins to come to terms with unresolved issues in their own lives.
Brad Pitt reflects on the story and their experience: “In the sense that it is sparse and elegant in its telling, Angie has written a very European film. Our job as actors is to make it more personal. Suddenly, to make it that personal, it becomes blurred. We have such history and mutual respect…as well as expectations of each other and our family. It was one of the most challenging things I’ve taken on. But at the same time, there’s been a great freedom in that, because we can experiment and play. It was oddly a safer environment than any set I’ve been on before, and so we let loose.”
Six characters take center stage in this tale, and Pitt walks us through the key players: “It’s a story about multiple couples at different stages in their lives. There are Lea and Francois, a couple who is just married and excited by the potential of the future; Michel and Patrice, who, in the form of a friendship, have been hardened and calloused and softened and widened by their experiences. Then there are our characters, Roland and Vanessa, who are at that stage where the newness has worn off and everything has come to the surface. It’s that point where they can either break through this and grow stronger beyond that point, or go their separate ways.”
It was the final pairing whom Jolie Pitt and Pitt ultimately decided to portray on screen. They would explore the travails of the second stage of love and how couples cope with the unexpected blows that life brings to a relationship that started with endless promise and isn’t sure where to go next.
For his part, Pitt relished delving into a character so very different from his previous roles. He explains: “Roland’s trying to figure out his book, and they’ve come to this seaside village for inspiration. I’m sure he’s got visions of Hemingway on his mind, with this locality and characters. But his book ultimately becomes about them and their experiences…as well as the effect that this time and place has had on them, and how they come out the other side.”
As Roland spends time among the locals, working on his book and racking his brain about how to come out on the other side of a torturous time in his marriage, he finds strange comfort in his helplessness. Reflects Pitt: “There is a puzzle in figuring out those things that get in the way of your true feelings about someone, really loving them. A lot of it is past insecurities, wanting something so much that you focus too much on losing it. Then all this is in play.”
Discussing the experience of working with her off-screen husband, Jolie Pitt is characteristically frank: “We have 10 years of history, and it all fed into these performances. It was challenging. I realized that it’s the greatest thing as an artist if you can use all of the intimacy toward your partner, challenge and push each other and fight to make things better. You pull out something from one another that feels very different.”
By the Sea opens November 18, 2015 exclusively at Ayala Malls Cinemas as distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.