Review: 'The Bay Of Silence' (2020) Dir. Paula van der Oest
Dutch director Paula van der Oest sets paranoia, depression and mental instability into her foundations of this unnerving drama clocking in at just under 90mins.
Sun-kissed, carefree couple Claes Bang and Olga Kurylenko, holidaying at the equally sun-kissed Baia del Silenzio (The Bay of Silence) on the Italian Riviera, slowly set an uneasy picture.
Covering one year of events in just over 10 minutes, we are teased with everything that hints at a dramatic story – miscarriage, extra-marital affairs, broken families and secret rooms in the home.
It doesn’t take long for their romantic lunches, cosy selfies and lustful love-making to slowly fade away...
The story revolves around a seemingly normal couple who are haunted by a dark secret from the past. A secret that has been eating away at them for years, often without even knowing it. It’s only when history looks set to repeat itself in a frightening turn of convenient events that that the family are forced to dig down deeper into the past for answers. What they discover may well end up changing things for the better, but destroy everything they’ve ever known in the process.
Continuing to eclipse her “Bond Girl” fame in 2008s Quantum Of Solace, Kurylenko has proven her acting ability away from 007 time and time again. Here she plays Rosalind, a new wife and mother haunted by a secret that put her whole family in danger. Husband and father Bang is the one left reeling when said secret threatens to tear his world apart. It takes him on a nightmarish journey from London to Normandy to Switzerland, all to find out just what is haunting his wife and family.
Adapted by British veteran actor Caroline Goodall (who also co-stars) from the novel ‘The Bay Of Silence’ by English author Lisa St Aubin de Terán, the premise sounds like a horror film.
In many ways, this chillingly veers into one leaving you more unnerved and uneasy as Bang’s journey progresses. It’s not the conventional horror of slasher films and jump-scares. No. Something far more terrifying; that of real human horror brought about by mental illness, psychological scars and dark, dangerous trauma. It echoes the psychological unbalance of The Wicker Man and Psycho, the eerie mise-en-scene of The Lighthouse and the human pain of Rosemary’s Baby. It’s the sort of classic horror teased in old black-and-white pictures hidden in wooden drawers, scribbled words in French that make no apparent sense, and blurred old photographs that hold answers to the present. In that respect, it also has shades of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Danish director Niels Arden Oplev. The power to shock, expose and take risks by these continental directors is very refreshing in an often watered down and very safe Western market.
This story telling really begins once Bang and Kurylenko arrive at an isolated fishing bay in Normandy. van der Oest uses their skills as actors to deliver some heart-breaking and equally uncomfortable moments you don’t think will come to fruition, but do. There’s no sugar-coated narrative playing out here, and you are presented with one grave situation after another that will keep you guessing as to where it goes next and what the final outcome will be. Lights and colours are used for psychological connotations. The sound of cold winds, creaking rafters and police sirens are atmospheric and diegetic and solid, confident cinematography and editing all work hand in hand to build an immersive story set in identifiable locations across Europe.
Bang and Kurylenko are a strong pair, working well together when their drama comes to a head, but also on their own as they walk the path in front of them. Bang’s character Will is a likeable man, and you are drawn into his nightmare straightaway; you want to know why and what just as much as he does. And with the support of French-Moroccan actor Assaad Bouab as a key face from the past and British star Brian Cox in a small role who drip-feeds clues to the outcome (whilst holding his own mask of deception), it’s Bang who is the man on a mission to seek out what has broken his wife and family.
While the first two acts of this story establish the characters, the horror they are in and the moments that will define them, the final act fights to bring balance and answers back into proceedings.
Psychological demons are unearthed and become a very identifiable and sickening reflection of society. Faces from the past are identified, motives are made clear and pain is finally cured, but thankfully with an ending that leaves a little tingle up your spine as we fade to black with great satisfaction.
Accompanied by a chilling, underlying score by American composer John Swihart, The Bay Of Silence is powerfully acted and perfectly directed to shake up the genre for some shock and awe by top talent in an international film industry that will haunt you long after the credits roll.
'The Bay Of Silence' is a co-production between Silent Bay Productions, Media Finance Capital, Vigilant Entertainment, Imperative Entertainment, TS Entertainment, Ngage Productions, New Scope Film and Levitate Film