Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Deep Blue Sea (2011)

Syvänsininen meri / The Deep Blue Sea (Swedish title). US/GB © 2011 The Deep Blue Sea Productions / UK Film Council. PC: A Camberwell / Fly Film Production. P: Sean O'Connor, Kate Ogborn. D+SC: Terence Davies - based on the play (1952) by Terence Rattigan - produced in Finland in 1954, 1955, and 1956 with the titles Syvä sininen meri and Rakastan sinua. DP: Florian Hoffmeister - digital grading by LipSync Post. PD: James Merifield. AD: David Hindle. Cost: Ruth Myers. Make-up and hair: Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou. VFX: LipSync Post. M: Samuel Barber: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 14 (1939), perf. Hilary Hahn & The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, cond. Hugh Wolff. S: Tim Barker. ED: David Charap. Casting: Jane Arnell. Loc: London. C: Rachel Weisz (Hester Collyer), Tom Hiddleston (Freddie Page), Simon Russell Beale (Sir William Collyer), Harry Hadden-Paton (Jackie Jackson), Ann Mitchell (Mrs. Elton), Sarah Kants (Liz Jackson), Barbara Jefford (Collyer's Mother), Jolyon Coy (Philip Welch), Karl Johnson (Mr. Miller), Mark Tandy (Edie and Ravenscroft Assistant), Stuart McLoughlin (man singing "Molly Malone" in the tube during the air raid). 98 min. Released by Atlantic Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Janne Kauppila / Kajsa Wickström. 2K DCP viewed at Maxim 1, Helsinki, 19 May 2012 (Finnish premiere weekend).

Technical specs from the end credits: Filmed on 35 mm with Panavision Cameras and Lenses - Lighting Equipment supplied by Panalux - Editing Equipment Hyperactive Broadcast, Arcimboldo - Originated on Kodak Motion Picture Film - Film Processing by Deluxe Soho.

Technical specs from the IMDb: Camera: Panavision Panaflex Cameras, Panavision Primo Lenses - Film negative format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 200T 5213, Vision3 500T 5219) - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Super 35 (3-perf) (source format). - Aspect ratio: 1.85:1.

From Artificial Eye's excellent pressbook: "Rattigan's work is a sustained assault on English middle-class values; fear of emotional commitment, terror in the face of passion, apprehension about sex. Few dramatists have written with more understanding about the human heart" (Michael Billington).

Official synopsis: "Hester Collyer (Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz) leads a privileged life in 1950s London as the beautiful wife of high court judge Sir William Collyer (Simon Russell Beale). To the shock of those around her, she walks out on her marriage to move in with young ex-RAF pilot, Freddie Page (Tom Hiddleston), with whom she has fallen passionately in love."

"Set in post-war Britain, this adaptation of Terence Rattigan’s classic play, The Deep Blue Sea is a study of forbidden love, suppressed desire, and the fear of loneliness – but is at heart a deeply moving love story. Stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea, what - or whom - should Hester choose?"

"The story is told from Hester's POV, both in the present and in her memories of the past. The story takes place between 1949-1950, with one flashback to 1940."

Says producer Sean O’Connor: “This is an anti-heritage period film about what it was like to live in the 1950s. 1947 was the harshest winter on record, the country was bankrupt, we had famously won the war but lost the peace and we were living in a society of some privation and confusion and devastation – everything was dark and dirty and cold. We wanted to articulate how depressed and depressing it was in 1949 to honour the people who lived through that period.

“We were influenced by films of that period too,” concurs producer Kate Ogborn, ”but rather than Brief Encounter which has a comforting glow we looked at Alexander Mackendrick’s Mandy, which is set in a world of bomb sites, and Robert Hamer’s It Always Rains on Sundays, about twenty-four hours in the life of a housewife played by Googie Withers, as well as the photographs by people like Bill Brandt who went into ordinary homes and documented people's lives."

“I don't think Terence does realism,” she continues. “His films are emotionally authentic to his memories, but they are more heightened than social realist films. The Deep Blue Sea looks ravishing, but it doesn't feel like we’ve ‘packaged’ the period. We're telling the story through the visuals and performances and it's very rich visually. Terence was also keen to give a softer look to the film so it's almost on the edge of focus and its look creates a tension with the raw emotional content.

“Because I grew up in the 1950s, I know what the texture felt like,” says Terence Davies. “We were bankrupt after the war and everything was drab. You very rarely saw primary colours, except in Hollywood musicals and the red lipstick that women wore. If a woman wore a dress with some colour on it, she looked like a Hollywood movie star. I recognised what Hester has given up - a quite luxurious life for one drab room in a lodging house with no toilet.

“I’m obsessed with Vermeer,” says Davies. “I love the glow you achieve when you switch on a red light in a drab room - you get a wonderful glow. In the scene we shot in Aldwych for the scene in the London underground station, we had little paraffin lamps causing little pools of like candles and very little else. It made it warm and cosy like a womb. And that warm glow makes what is an unbearable situation - waiting for the bombs to drop while you’re underground - bearable.

Terence Davies showed production designer James Merifield a photo - sepia, smudged and reminiscent of the director’s childhood - and it provided the inspiration for Merifield’s designs. “I thought there was the opportunity to do something quite stylised, quite heightened but still true to the story which is obviously very real in terms of the performances,” says the designer. “So I followed this photograph and created the whole look with sepia tones, and took all the colours and de-saturated them.

The result is an autumnal colour palette of brown, ochre, butterscotch and toffee in which splashes of colour may suddenly appear – the interior of a suitcase or a ruby red coat that Hester wears, for example. “If you put a primary colour against a saturated background, it becomes much warmer,” says Davies. “And because the main palette is saturated, you really notice the colour. I wanted to recreate something of the feeling of seeing that bright Technicolor at the movies - you’d think ‘Oh God, doesn’t that look wonderful!’ - and James and costume designer Ruth Myers knew exactly what I meant. They did a fabulous job.

I find it impossible to relate properly to the movies of Terence Davies because of his passivity. At the same time I admire and respect him for his uncompromising work in the same spirit and level of ambition as artists such as Vermeer and Samuel Barber, central to The Deep Blue Sea. There is a top cast and artistic crew in the movie. Rachel Weisz gives a great performance as Hester Collyer, a character which belongs to the tradition of Anna Karenina, but Sir Collyer is a more understanding character than Mr. Karenin. Common for both stories is that it is impossible for the lady to live a life without sexual passion. The counterpart of Vronsky is the retired RAF pilot Freddie Page, more superficial and unstable than the Russian officer. Prominently used is Samuel Barber's violin concerto, which was also played at the set when the movie was made. It speaks of a passion that is muted and repressed in post-war London. As the pressbook says, the violin concerto has a similar role in The Deep Blue Sea as had Rachmaninoff's second piano concerto in Brief Encounter. Another connection to the Noël Coward - David Lean story and Anna Karenina is the scene at the tube where Hester contemplates suicide by throwing herself in front of the train. But then she remembers how the tube was a shelter during the Battle of Britain. And Freddie, a war survivor, many of whose friends died in the war, cannot understand how someone can consider suicide.

The Deep Blue Sea is a story of three people with a fundamental problem of mutual understanding and communication. Hester Collyer is a normal woman with healthy passions. Sir Collyer is a nice man, but he is already long past the age of such passions. Freddie Page is a nice man too, but for him a sex relationship does not imply anything else, although he is not abusing Hester, either, on the contrary, he helps her wake up as a woman and he is the first to bring her sexual fulfillment.

The visual look in the movies of Terence Davies is always very carefully considered. In this 2K DCP presentation the soft focus, the darkness, and the muted colour palette did not usually look very good. Perhaps the definition was too low, perhaps the challenges for a digital post-production were overwhelming. The close-ups of Rachel Weisz were beautifully lit in a way that was effective even in this presentation.  

The full music credits are beyond the jump break:
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op.14
(Samuel Barber)
Published by G.Schirmer, Inc (ASCAP)
Performed by Hilary Hahn & The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
Conducted by Hugh Wolff
Licensed courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment Inc.

"A Sailor Went To Sea, Sea, Sea"
1972, Opie Collection of Children's Games and Songs
© The British Library Board: C898/06

“Anytime”
(Herbert Happy Lawson)
Published by UniChappell Music Inc (BMI) © 1921
Performed by Eddie Fisher
Licensed courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment Inc

"How You Gonna Keep 'Em Down On The Farm"
(Walter Donaldson, Samuel Lewis, Joseph Young)
Published by EMI Music Publishing Ltd,
Carlin Music Corp on behalf of Redwood Music Ltd and Warock Corp.

“You Belong To Me”
(Pee Wee King, Chilton Price, Redd Stewart)
Published by Ridgeway Music (BMI)
All Rights Administered by Warner/Chappell Music Ltd
Performed by Jo Stafford
Licensed courtesy of Jasmine Records

"Molly Malone"
(Traditional)

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