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The Bay of Silence

by George Wolf

You know those films that make you think, “Man, I bet this was a great book”?

The Bay of Silence is one of those. It has the intrigue, the mystery and the performances to hold your attention, but it feels as if something’s missing. Something like several pages, or even a chapter or two from Lisa St. Aubin de Terán’s 1986 novel.

Design firm exec Will (Claes Bang) and photographer Rosalind (Olga Kurylenko) are enjoying an idyllic getaway in Italy, where Will pops the question with a pull tab (don’t worry, he’s good for a real ring). An opening prologue gives us a glimpse of some trauma in Rosalind’s youth, but it seems like Will, Rosalind and her 8 year-old twin daughters can look forward to happiness as a blended family.

Months later, a very pregnant Rosalind falls from a balcony. Though baby Amedeo is delivered healthy, Rosalind has changed. She’s convinced that she actually delivered another set of twins, and that everyone involved (including Will) is in on the deception.

Ros returns to her photography and her erratic behavior continues, until Will returns home to find his wife, the children, and their nanny (Shalisha James-Davis) all gone.

Will turns to Rosalind’s mother (Alice Krige) and manager/former stepfather Milton (Bryan Cox) for answers, but the mystery of Rosalind’s past, present and future only deepens.

Are we dialing M for madness of murderousness? Director Paula van Der Oest (Oscar nominee for 2001’s Zus & Zo) nails a Hitchcock vibe in spots, but the adapted screenplay from Caroline Goodall – or an editing hachet job order from the studio – leaves too many dangling threads for a completely satisfying payoff.

Rosalind’s fascination with twins is just one of the questions nurtured and then forgotten, apparently in service of a quicker trip to the resolution which is telegraphed pretty early on.

The cast is uniformly splendid (especially Cox, natch) and the locales ooze sophistication. But while The Bay of Silence qualifies as perfectly acceptable adult fare, you can’t help wishing it would have said a little more.

Sister’s Grimm

Gretel & Hansel

by Hope Madden

It’s still early, but 2020 has not been great in terms of horror.

First came Nicolas Pesce’s pointless reboot of The Grudge.

Yikes. And I do not mean that in a good way.

And then last week we had Floria Sigismondi’s boldly wrong-headed reimagining, The Turning.

In keeping with a trend, this week Oz Perkins revisits an existing story. Gretel & Hansel pick on the bones of that old fairly-tale—the one that actually did scare the shit out of me as a kid. Two kids are turned out into the woods because their parents can’t feed them. Things go from bad to worse once they’re left to fend for themselves and soon cannibalism comes into play, as I assume it always does when you get lost in the woods.

Perkins, working from a script by Rob Hayes (East Meets Barry West), abandons much of the original bits (fewer breadcrumbs). His spookier imagination is more interested in Gretel’s burgeoning womanhood.

Sophia Lillis (IT) narrates and stars as Gretel, the center of this coming of age story—reasonable, given the change of billing suggested by the film’s title. The witch may still have a tasty meal on her mind, but this is less a cautionary tale than it is a metaphor for agency over obligation.

Alice Krige and her cheekbones strike the perfect mixture of menace and mentorship, while Sammy Leakey’s little Hansel manages to be both adorable and tiresome, as is required for the story to work.

Perkins continues to impress with his talent for visual storytelling and Galo Olivares’s cinematography heightens the film’s folkloric atmosphere.

It’s unfortunate, though, that Perkins doesn’t also write. The two films he both writes and directs, I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House and, in particular, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, sidestepped predictability while mining primal anxieties to produce excellent, memorable horror.

The writing here doesn’t quite reach the heights of the storyline told through imagery. Gretel & Hansel loses itself too often in a dreamscape horror without rectifying or clarifying, which leaves the metaphor foggy and the horror muted.

But there’s no escaping this spell. The whole affair feels like an intriguing dream.