Now that The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 is out in theaters and nearly the entire population of North America appears to have seen it, it’s time to shuck off the shackle of spoiler alerts and get down to analyzing the nitty gritty. Vulture asked screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg (who’s also scripted the previous three films in the franchise) to give us the lowdown on how she and director Bill Condon conceived the movie’s two most major set pieces — the love scene and Bella’s bloody birth — and since the movie has already been out for several days, she was free to discuss the plot points she had to keep veiled before. Read on for her spoiler-filled analysis.
Let’s start with the love scene. Tell me about the decision to convey it mostly through flashback.
I didn’t initially write it that way, but it was Bill’s idea to shoot it that way, so I shifted around the pages.
How did you approach it the first time?
The first time I wrote it, it was just sex sex sex. [Laughs.] I was like, “Okay, they’re in the water, and then there’s tons of sex.” Then Bill came up with this idea of teasing it out somewhat, and it’s such a great idea visually as well as more tantalizing, so I completely embraced that.
Did you add anything to that scene that wasn’t in the book?
I think in the book, they have sex in the water? I can’t quite remember.
I never quite understand how sex in the water works.
It’s a terrible idea. [Laughs.] But in the movie, we actually get to see the moment where he breaks the bed, which is a fun thing that’s just alluded to in the book.
When you know that a lot of young girls will be watching this movie, does that limit how you script a sex scene?
It doesn’t for me in this film, because it’s very healthy. There’s no raunchiness about it — I’m not a prude that way, I’m afraid, but maybe I should be! I see nothing wrong with it, so I go for it the same way I would if it were grown-up. It’s about the romance of it, it’s about the sensuality of it — it’s not about showing certain pieces of anatomy.
Since the iconography of this movie is so heightened, do you ever worry about the allegorical ways people may interpret it? Like Bella making excuses for the bruises her husband gave her after sex …
The sex was consensual. She asked for it, and she wants more. As long as it’s consensual, she is not a victim — in fact, she’s the aggressor here. Is it unnerving to see bruises on a woman? Sure, of course it is. I flinch a little bit when I see it myself. But you can see something through any perspective you want, and I just choose as much as possible to perceive and portray her as strong.
All right, let’s talk about the birth scene. Obviously, this was one of the most speculated-about sequences in the entire franchise. What did you think when you first read it in the book? It’s surprisingly gory and vivid.
Initially, I was quite shocked because it’s such a left turn into horror. I thought it was going to be a challenge to write, but ultimately what I embraced was the perspective of the book. It’s from Bella’s perspective and that actually ended up writing quite easily, which surprised me. Of all the things that were difficult to write, that was not one of them.
A lot of people were concerned about Edward biting the baby out of Bella, but since it’s shot from her perspective, it’s not even entirely clear what Edward’s doing.
Exactly. Plus, having been on Dexter for a number of years, I really understood that terror is not about what you see but what you don’t. You’re playing the terror in her face, and when you see the emotion, it’s so much more raw and visceral than buckets of blood shooting around.
Was it always clear that this scene would be the climax of the first part of Breaking Dawn?
Yeah, it was. Talking in structural terms, you always end your second act with your character at the lowest possible point, and I thought Bella being dead seemed to qualify. [Laughs.]
If Breaking Dawn had been one movie instead of two, how might you have re-conceived all this stuff?
Initially, I was thinking that perhaps the book was one long epic movie, but I realized that we’d have to cut out so much material that it would be unsatisfying, so I moved away from that. I think I would have had her get pregnant by the end of act one, and the midpoint would have been the death, but you can imagine how much material you would have had to cut out to make that happen.
There’s an ongoing debate between the Cullens about whether to call Bella’s in-utero child a “fetus” or a “baby” … you’re aware that some commentators may pick up on the abortion undertones there and run with it?
Absolutely, and as a pro-choice feminist, that was certainly my concern going in. No matter what, I would not have done this movie if it violated my own beliefs — I would have just walked away — so I had to find a way into it that was in line with my own thinking and yet not violating anyone else’s beliefs. So that was probably one of the initial challenges of it. I’ve also heard the comment that Bella is the one who’s constantly sacrificing, and wow, I never saw her as someone who sacrificed anything. If anyone’s sacrificing anything, it’s Edward, because from the very beginning — and certainly in this film — she knows what she wants and goes for it, hell or high water. She’s perhaps even a little selfish because she’s so driven for what she wants. “Okay, so I die and Edward’s broken-hearted for the rest of eternity? Well, tough luck, I’m going for it anyway.” She’s very clear, and frankly, I see her as a very strong character. Do other people see her as someone who sacrifices? Absolutely, but I’ve never written her that way, and it actually took me by surprise.