Mae’s costume is anachronistically modern. The idea was that her character Edna was to appear to be evolving much more quickly than her environment. At the start of the film which is set at the end of the 1800s, Edna’s distinction is signaled by the colors she wears—while everyone else wears washed-out shades of white and grey and brown, she wears vivid blue—and by the end of the film she’ll be wearing a dress from the mid 1920’s with a 1960s flourish.
Before they begin shooting the scene, Lang catches Mae in her trailer fiddling with her clothes, the long skirt cinched tight at the waist, short jacket with rounded shoulders, vivid patterned blouse with a complicated asymmetric bow at the neck. Mae wears that nonchalant look that Lang has learned to interpret as apprehension.
“Don’t be nervous,” Lang tells her.
Mae clenches her jaw. “Why should I be nervous?”
“Of course you’re not nervous. I just said that reflexively.”
“I’m just not crazy about improvisation. I wish I had a couple of solid lines to hold onto in this scene.”
Lang pours them each a glass of water, sits down at the table, and motions for Mae to join her. They have a well-established rhythm now. The longer Lang talks, the further Mae falls under the spell of this thing they are doing together. Although Mae has a knack for pulling those chords, Lang’s role is not exactly maternal; she’s prefers to think of herself as a surrogate or midwife or coach, she’s not quite willing to step any closer because she knows the director must always retain her objectivity. But Lang is willing to go through the requisite motions and before each scene, Lang hovers behind Mae, whispering in her ear, squeezing her arm for emphasis. Like real intimates they have learned what needs to be said or heard. They inhale what they need to get under the surface of the scene.
The rest of this chapter is closed for renovation.