In “Anatomy of a Scene”, we ask directors to reveal the secrets that go into making key scenes in their films. See new episodes of the series on Fridays. You can also watch our collection of over 150 videos on YouTube and subscribe to our youtube channel.
The landscapes of Badlands National Park become a place to get lost and find yourself in this scene of “Nomadland”.
Frances McDormand plays Fern, a woman who begins a life on the road when her economic situation turns dire during the recession. She works in the Badlands of South Dakota and explores the park in this sequence which features a number of non-professional actors, as well as veteran David Strathairn.
Narrating the scene, director Chloé Zhao talks about her work to make these moments in the park feel improvised, even though they were written and carefully staged. Fern has time to wander though, and Zhao says the ways McDormand moves and explores in the scene reminds him of Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin. We see a little sparkle in his discoveries, but the enjoyment is always bittersweet.
Read the ‘Nomadland’ review.
Sign up for the Movies Update newsletter and get a roundup of reviews, news, reviewers’ picks and more.