Set in the London fashion world of the 1950s, Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread” examines how famed designer Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) attempts to mold and manipulate his latest muse, a plain working class girl named Alma.
The story also examines what behavior we tolerate from powerful men, a particularly relevant theme in the era of #MeToo. This idea resonated with Vicky Krieps, the breakout actress who stars as Alma opposite Day-Lewis.
“I don’t think that just because you’re talented you can get away with everything,” Krieps told TheWrap’s Matt Donnelly. “This is also an American way of thinking, that because you get something, you are allowed to be whoever you want to be, because the goal is the most important. Like what am I getting out of a relationship?”
Krieps also decried what she sees as a transactional aspect of such relationships. “If you meet someone three times, after this you have to kiss, because if you don’t, what’s it for? I find it so interesting, because it’s all aiming the goal of getting something out of it. This is why aiming the goal is getting something out of there.”
She continued: “This is where it comes from that someone can be an asshole, because he just can show what he’s gaining from there and what he’s bringing on the table, which I think is boring,” Krieps said. “That’s what Alma is proving. Even a genius, once you meet a real person, it all just crumbles because it’s not real.”
Krieps and “Phantom Thread’s” costume designer Mark Bridges spoke as part of TheWrap’s awards Screening series following a showing of the film at the Landmark Theatres in Los Angeles Tuesday night. For the Oscar-winning Bridges, he’s worked with Anderson on each of his eight films, but even though imagining the fashion world was a more familiar setting, Krieps and Bridges both agreed that Anderson is always full of surprises.
“I was excited by the concept, but you never know what you’re going to get,” Bridges said. “You never know if you’re going to get porn in the valley or oil drilling in Texas or hippies or trips to Hawaii on pudding points. You never know what you’re going to get with him. I was like, ‘Okay, this is our journey this time.'”
“Knowing Paul, he likes to play with all of this, and he likes to invite all these ideas to the audience, and he likes the audience to have their own ideas,” Krieps added.
One of the more notable scenes in “Phantom Thread” comes when Alma and Woodcock are sitting quietly over breakfast, only for Woodcock to be driven up the wall by the noise made when Alma scrapes butter onto her toast. But Krieps and Bridges didn’t find the scene to be outrageous or out of the ordinary when considering the ups and downs in any relationship.
“It just seemed very real to me, the idiosyncrasies of life,” Bridges said. “This was their own personal happiness and hell.”
“Every couple finds their way. It can be very strange. Sometimes sexual, sometimes some game. Look at old couples, they have really individual strange ways of communicating, and only they understand,” Krieps added.
More so than manipulation, Krieps said Anderson’s “Phantom Thread” is a movie about love.
“What is love? Why is it such a beautiful thing and powerful thing but also such a destructive thing? Why can it destroy us but also make a life change, so it’s everything,” Krieps said. “I think that’s why in the end it’s an honest approach, and why it is moving people, I think.”
Watch a clip from the Q&A above.