The very talented Danish actor Claes Bang may not exactly be a household name. However, as a reminder, he starred in The Square, and more recently, in The Burnt Orange Heresy, which co-starred Donald Sutherland and Mick Jagger. He is the kind of actor who compels your eye to stay riveted to the screen and his highly textured performance as Will in The Bay of Silence continues in that tradition.
Paula van der Oest directed Caroline Goodall’s screenplay, based on Lisa St. Aubin de Teran’s novel of the same name. The film begins with a series of rapidly changing scenes starting with a haunting scream of a little girl that immediately gets your attention. Following that opening, quick cuts to a confessional, a bicycle, and finally we see Will, a civil engineer, and his beautiful artist girlfriend Rosalind, wonderfully played by Olga Kurylenko, who delivers a highly nuanced performance. They are playful young lovers and are splashing around in the lake in Liguria, Italy where he feigns drowning. Seeing how terrified Rosalind became, he immediately apologizes and proposes marriage. Eight months later she is pregnant. They are having a housewarming reception in the backyard of their London home. She is about to take a photo of the kids playing below, when the railing breaks and she falls to the ground, but is not injured.
Rosalind has twin girls from a previous marriage who Will embraces as his own. Eventually, she has a baby boy but, beginning her downward mental spiral, insists that she had twins and that they were hiding the other baby. Will tries to reassure her that she only gave birth to their son named Amadeo and slowly, ever so slowly we begin to see her unravel. She has nightmares and walks in her sleep which her loving husband tries to understand. He is very playful with her twin girls and one evening they ask him to tickle them, which he does. Rosalind gets upset at his touching her children and snaps, “They need to sleep.” It is about here that we begin to get a glimmer of what might have taken place in her childhood, and perhaps there is a deep-rooted secret, but we still don’t have the facts. Her mother, Vivian, (Alice Krige) is married to Milton, well played by the always spot-on Brian Cox, who exhibits love and caring for Rosalind and is quite protective of her. After she gives birth, he visits his stepdaughter, bringing her a beautiful piece of gold piece jewelry and champagne.
Will’s latest project puts him in charge of constructing a bridge in Newcastle. One night, he returns home from work and finds everything in total disarray, the word liar scrawled in giant letters on a wall, and his wife and kids are gone. Milton shows up informing him that Rosalind called to say that she was leaving her marriage but even though he knows where she went, he won’t help. He has good reasons to resist guiding his son-in-law in his search for his family.
Will is desperate to locate his family and while searching the attic for clues of where she might be, he sees an old suitcase, which he breaks open. He finds a parcel had arrived from Normandy the day she disappeared which contained a camera case with strips of negatives hidden inside the lining. Also concealed were a bunch of photographs of his wife as a young girl. On the back of one of the photos are the words “I forgive you.” Will deduces what is pictured is a small coastal village in northern France and decides that’s probably where she went. Armed with the photographs, he heads to what he believes is the village shown in the photos and goes in and out of local stores asking if anyone saw her or the children. Someone had indeed seen her and directs him to this old run-down house that appears to be boarded up, but on arrival he sees the twin girls fighting on the beach below with a baby carriage nearby. He goes down to where they are and finds the interior of the carriage covered with twigs and leaves. He slowly removes the debris and discovers Amadeo’s lifeless body. Rosalind is in the house sitting in a dark corner and her decent into total madness is clear. Now, during Will’s quest to find his family, one young man in town seemed to be popping up consistently. At first, Will is suspicious of Pierre Laurent, nicely played by Assaad Bouab, but eventually they become allies as he unveils the unthinkable truth about the wife’s past and the secret that has been causing her mental decline. Eventually, through perseverance, he unearths a hornet’s nest of family falsehoods and deceptions.
Aiding and abetting the intriguing story telling is Guido van Gennep haunting cinematography, John Swihart’s music, and perfect editing by Sander Vos and Paul Tothill, all of whom contributed immensely to creating this mysterious mosaic of intersecting lives and the duplicitous nature of some of the people inhabiting this tale. Like any Hitchcockian thriller, just when you think you’ve figured everything out, along comes another shocking twist so like Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over,” but in this case, you’re not actually sure it’s over and what you’re seeing might not be the truth of what you’re seeing. If that’s vague, well it’s meant to be.
The Bay of Silence*
Director: Paula van der Oest
Screenplay: Caroline Goodall
Distributor: A Vertical Entertainment Release
Cinematographer: Guido van Gennep
Editors: Sander Vos, & Paul Tothill
Music: John Swihart
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Cast: Claes Bang, Olga Kurylenko, Alice Krige, Brian Cox
The film will screen through Virtual Cinemas and on digital and VOD platforms beginning Friday, August 14.
*The beautiful Bay of Silence in Liguria is a small picturesque bay located on the Italian Riviera and is frequented by locals during the summer months.