The Bay of Silence is based on Lisa St Aubin De Teran’s haunting novel of the same name. The British born, globe-trotting author, has published 22 acclaimed books. Prestigious awards include the Somerset Maugham and John Llwelleyn Rhys prize.
Producer/writer, Caroline Goodall: “When I read The Bay of Silence, I was haunted by its visual and emotional power. The book was written in the mid 80’s but is timeless. The Bay of Silence (La Baia del Silenzio) is two hours from my family home in Italy and I spent many hours sitting on the sandy beach, imagining how to tell the tale. Lisa gave me her blessing to approach the story as a mystery thriller. The universal question it asks is ‘what happens when you bury the truth’? Can you ever climb out of that hole? Lose your sense of truth and you lose your grip on reality.” That is as relevant today as it was then.
Lisa’s other novels include Slow Train to Milan, Keepers of the House, The Hacienda, A Valley In Italy, Joanna and Great Railway Journeys.
The six week, three country shoot commenced July 2018 in the World Heritage site of the Bay of Silence, itself, located in the famous Cinque Terre region of Liguria, Italy.Production moved to the coastal region of the Scottish borders, doubling for the remote French village where Will finds his missing family. The isolated locations contrast with the busy urban environment of London and sun-drenched beauty of The Bay of Silence, to create a visual palette for this complex, often disturbing, story.
Director, Paula Van Der Oest : “Three separate countries – Italy, Scotland, England - and a challenging schedule, with remote locations including beaches and cliffs, racing time and weather to get beautiful images. We shot on winding roads, in tunnels and on cliff tops, in searing heat; a freak storm flooded our production base, drenching costumes and sending catering tents flying in to the sea. But the city of Sestri Levante welcomed us with open arms. When our stars stand in the water of The Bay of Silence they seem alone, but the bay was teeming with tourists, heroically huddled for us in a corner of the beach”.
In Scotland, the wild coastal terrain created the gothic atmosphere the story needs as the team raced to get the shots through long night shoots punctuated by rain. Safety on slippery rocky beaches was key, with eight-year old twins Litiana and Lilibet Biutenesava. “They were magnificent. They cried on cue or fought like little savages, then pealed into laughter after I called cut”.
Harry Ammerlaan, production designer, and his team wanted 'Bel Reve,’ high on a cliff in St Abbs to look abandoned and spooky. “Given the traumatic experience tied to this location, we looked for a house that exudes history. This location was never a summer retreat, but an isolated, grim and hostile house - a place where secrets can be kept”. The villagers opened their homes to production, now a firm supporter of the private St Abb’s Lifeboat fund.
Paula has made five films with cinematographer, Guido De Gennep, who says, “We felt the film should be atmospheric and stylized, referencing the classic cinema of Nick Roeg’s “Don’t Look Now”, “Bad Timing”, Hitchcock and Polanski. I looked at the early work of Vittorio Storaro, like The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and The Conformist. He has a great way of using widescreen leaving large areas of the screen dark, which creates a menacing atmosphere. We wanted to give the film a very old school, European look, and decided on anamorphic lenses in combination with the Alexa XT, so it would be stylized, but in a subtle way. We also used slow zoom-ins to add to the 70’s flavor."
It was important to the film makers to use as much of London as logistically and fiscally possible. Central London and St James, for Milton’s world. Leafy West London suburbia for the family. Nightclubs and narrow edgy streets as the action becomes more frenetic and claustrophobic. Even the River Thames, which complements Paula’s use of water throughout the film, including the Thames Walk in Battersea Park near the Bhuddist Pagoda of Peace for a far from peaceful, scene between Milton and Will. Will and Rosalind’s London home was chosen for its space, warmth and huge garden. Says Ammerlaan, “By using a classic house in an upscale area, their life seems set for success. The colour palette of the interior suggests that Rosalind has decorated but also introduces a subliminal sense of misplacement with a hint of underlying friction. Additionally, the colours allowed us to utilize the lighting to enable the décor to support Rosalind’s changing moods”.
Adds Caroline “London was all heat wave. The day we shot the christening party was 30 degrees. We had no wet weather cover, so the heat was a small price to pay but I despaired at the grass turning to straw in the garden we had so carefully chosen”.
Ammerlaan: “For Milton, we wanted his home to be full of art and beauty, but so filled with eclectic taste that the setting masks his thoughts and behavior.”
Top US composer, John Swihart provided the score. “We wanted to make an electronic score with organic instruments woven to it. On top of the electronic foundation, there are a number of pre-recorded acoustic instruments fed into granular synthesis modules to create some of the ambient sounds. Plucked piano rhythms, natural piano, and a string section help combine the Romantic and Thriller elements musically in order to support the narrative”.
The English language film includes French and Italian which is integral to the plot. “Rosalind’s family inhabit a multi-lingual, cross-border world of shifting alliances and secrets, which contrasts with Will’s monolingual, more straightforward outlook”, says Caroline. Paula also suggested changing the character of Lena to Russian which worked well with Olga’s Ukrainian heritage.
“Olga has that big screen siren allure, yet she is so present as an actor and at ease in French, Italian, Russian as she is in English”, says Paula van der Oest. It was great to take advantage of it. “London is the most linguistically diverse city in the world. Since diversity is part of our current conversation, it was natural to reflect that in the film.”
Our stars have iconic movie star looks but wanted to look real and grounded while maintaining that throw-back classic film appeal. Costume designer, Celia Yau took up the challenge. “We wanted to define the characters through their clothing. It was important for the actors to be real/believable so we worked to choose outfits that reflected their personalities. I worked on choosing looks that would evolve and change along with their journeys. For example, throughout the film Rosalind goes through several different mental states. In the beginning of the film she is happy, bright and well. After her tragic accident, she becomes troubled and deteriorates mentally. She is haunted by her past and sleepwalks. For this scene, I found a vintage, silk dressing gown that was a murky brown colour, which seemed the right choice to visually define her state of mind. As Ros changes, her styling choices shift. We wanted to reflect how she was feeling through her clothes. Being a bohemian artist there were times where we thought she should look “a bit off” ie; not too considered, just throwing things together ie not giving too much thought to how she looked. Rosalind’s wardrobe was a mix of vintage and modern giving her a creative and arty look”.
To write and produce a $4m film as a first feature, Goodall knew would be a challenge. “I have been privileged to learn from the best through a long global career in front of the camera. Every project has its own unpredictable DNA regardless of budget size. I have experienced most things on set over the years and the first thing you learn is to trust the people around you. I was blessed early on with a generous and committed team and having variously called the US, UK and Italy my home I was able to source people who might not normally work together. Post production was in Amsterdam, a wonderful city to work in. The rhythm is calmer and you bicycle everywhere. We worked with Holland’s top sound and picture post, who truly took the film to their hearts”.