The
Vincent
PEREZ
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PRODUCTION NOTES


DIRECTOR KIDRON:

This film is a classic love story, one that I understood.  But like all great love stories, it's about other things as well.  It's about morality, about being an outcast and about how we treat strangers - all of which is as relevant today as it was 100 years ago.

Amy has a passionate relationship with the elements.  It's almost as if the sea is her lover, that is until Yanko comes along.  The film has a fierce romanticism.  It speaks of a love which goes even beyond the object of love being present.  Beyond a death.  It was this extremity that fascinated me.

I think everyone will recognize something of themselves in the two lead characters.  Either as the great passionate lovers on the one hand or as the outsider on the other.  This film has themes that are timeless.

Cornwall is a very rugged and changing landscape.  It's sunny, it's cold, it storms, it rages.  And then there is the sea.  Amy and I share an almost lustful affair with the sea and the elements.  It's English landscape at its most exotic.  Since my work has concentrated on urban tales, it felt like a very wild place.

In the scene when Amy washes Yanko, I remember there was a moment when I said to Tim that we needed an act of religious kindness.  You know, the kindness of Christians, an act so pure but tht has a sensuality to it.  that's how the woodshed scene was born. I hoped it would be a purification, like washing the feet of Christ.  Tim wrote it and I filmed it almost verbatim.  For me, it's one of the most successful scenes in the film - a scene with barely any words.

[It was a performance in the Cannes prize-winner La Reine Margot, in which he made an impressive impact as Isabelle Adjani's lover, that made Vincent Perez the first choice of the filmmakers for the pivotal role of Yanko.   Director Kidron was impressed with Perez' willingness to take on whatever challenges the role offered.]


DIRECTOR KIDRON'S COMMENTS ON VINCENT:

If he needs to dance, he learns to dance. If he needs to speak Ukrainian, suddenly he can speak Ukrainian. Purely in terms of technical prowess, he's very impressive. He's also a lot of fun, and has an incredible sweetness as a human being that he brings to the role. And it doesn't hurt that he's also drop-dead gorgeous.

Vincent did such incredible work transforming himself from Swiss/Spanish to Ukrainian that on some days, I would ask him to ad lib in Ukrainian, forgetting it wasn't his native tongue.  It was one of the great pleasures of working back in Europe.


vletter.gif (1289 bytes)INCENT PEREZ:
Yanko is someone who believes in destiny.  He's also very respectful of people and doesn't think badly of them.  His problem is that he's cut off from his culture.  Amy gives him back his pride.  What's great about Amy and Yanko is that their one project is love - they have no other plans.

The love story is very strong and very modern.  Themes of emigration and intolerance are also very contemporary.  This is a story that could happen anywhere in the world.

Beeban's approach to directing is very precise but also very free. I wasn't very far from Yanko and I guess she saw that. We never had to struggle to find a scene because the script was very well written, and she knew exactly what she wanted. But she was always ready for an actor to surprise her, which is great."

I felt I had to do this movie for my father. My father left Spain and my mother left Germany to seek a better life, just as Yanko did.   When I read the script, I felt something very intimate.

[Weisz, Kidron and co-star Vincent Perez all agree there was something magical about the shoot, which began in the rugged seaside hills of Cornwall in September 1996.]

We were helped by gods. We needed a shot to show springtime . . . suddenly we had this rainbow; it was there for 10 minutes. We needed snow, it snowed.   Cinematographer Dick Pope said after making this movie he really believes in God.


RACHEL WEISZ:

Swept from the Sea is the most perfect love story ever.  Amy and Yanko never have to explain themselves to each other.  They would unquestionably die for each other, but they have to tell each other that.  I found something incredibly heroic and beautiful about the character of Amy.  She doesn't mind the affirmation of other people in order to feel story.  I do feel that I aspire to being Amy Foster.

It was a big responsibility.  Emotionally and psychologically, I had to enter a different kind of world.  I didn't feel abel to just tune in and out of the character.  I feel I led another life while playing this role.

Ultimately, the success of any love story depends upon the chemistry between the two protagonists.  That's something that either happens or it doesn't. With Vincent, it was brilliant, we never planned it or talked it through. It just happened in front of the camera. Working with him was a very happy experience.


SCREENWRITER TOM WILLOCKS:

Conrad's story haunted me for years.  I suppose what attracted me is the idea that love is stronger than death.  This story is a very lifelike tale about the heroic emotions and heroic courage that people often have in real life.  In this story the scale of the elements is matched by the scale of the characters' emotions.   It gives the film an epic quality.


CINEMATOGRAPHER

This film is an intimate, passionate love story, but it is set against some of England's most stunning, rugged scenery.  The moors, cliffs and coastline of North Cornwall, with its big open skies and the Atlantic Ocean, were constantly undergoing change in mood and color.  We shot the picture  in the super 35mm widescreen format to capture this epic quality on film.  Beeban has a strong visual sense and a clear vision of how she wanted the film to look, which I sought to translate photographically onto the screen.

Different characters are expressed with different colors in a collaboration between costume and lighting.  Amy wears the colors of the sea and sky, blues and greens, while Dr. Kennedy wears browns and reds, burnished and warm.   Yanko's life back in the Ukraine is very colorful, but in Cornwall it is confused.   All of these factors contributed to my thought process.

The film spans all the seasons, so we required rain and storm scenes as well as idyllic summer days.  When the local weather did not oblige, we had to create our own.  On the whole, though, we were remarkably lucky.


COSTUME DESIGNER CAROLINE HARRIS:

We wanted Amy's look to be very simple, to reflect her station in life, but we also wanted her clothes to express the fact that he is a collector of things.   She has very little vanity so she only has four costumers, bu I put a lot of texture into her outfits so that although they're plain, they have an attractive richness on the screen.  I couldn't use silks and satins because those fabrics would ahve been beyond the means of the characters, so I incorporated fisherman's oilskins into costumers such as Amy's coat and skirts, which have a wonderful sheen on the screen.  I also put shiny panels into her best dress to indicate that she is a keeper of found objects.   When we first see her in her cave of treasures, we understand that the fabric could have been something she had collected.


PRODUCTION DESIGN NOTES:

For production designer Simon Holland, the challenge was to provide a landscape of sparse, uncluttered simplicity.  The rugged, bleak but beautiful Cornish coastline and hilltops provided the perfect background for the film's epic love story.   When authentic period locations could not be found, they had to be built.   Holland's constructions included an entire coastal village and a solid clifftop cottage strong enough to withstand a local hurricane during filming.

Conrad's original story is set in the relatively tame county of Kent, but Tim Willock's adaptatioon called for the savage beauty and the dramatic sweep of the Cornish landscape. 

For the house in which Amy and Yanko live after their marriage, the director wanted a very dramatic setting.  After a fruitless search, it was decided that production designer Holland and his crew would build a cottage on the edge of a high, windswept cliff.

The fictitious village of Colebrooke is the result of six weeks of construction in the tiny deserted village of Port Quinn.  The production built its own fishing village which included a large church facade, a terrace of houses, a churchyard, a smoke house and inn frontage.


FURTHER NOTES BY JOHN CALHOUN:

Wildness is not a common commodity in modern-day England, which can make the filming of 19th- and early 20th-century works of literature a challenge Joseph Conrad's 1901 short story Amy Foster, which has been made into a movie called Swept From the Sea by director Beeban Kidron, is set in a stormy seaside village in Kent, but as production designer Simon Holland explains it, "There's no way we could find what we needed in Kent, it's too much taken over by rich, retired stockbrokers, being only an hour's drive from London. The script called for a wild, bleak quality, and one was forced to look for a wild place."

Such a location was found in Cornwall, on the other end of the southern British coast. The hamlet of Port Quinn was judged the perfect spot to realize this tragic romantic tale of Amy Foster, a strange, dreamy local girl (Rachel Weisz) and Yanko, a Ukrainian immigrant (Vincent Perez). "I suppose it was 2/3 there," says Holland of the town. "It was one of the few places that had a terrific bay, it was immediately on the water's edge, and there was very little that was of the 20th century, except for cosmetic things.

"But we had to make it more of a working village," the designer continues. "We had to build a row of cottages with shops in them, and blank out a car park to do it. The exterior of the church was built over the top of a fairly modernish building, so we had to disguise that with a facade and two sides of the roof."

The nearby farm where Amy lives and works was also an existing location. "The building itself was quite old," says Holland, "but it had been bought and made into a private dwelling. So we had to de-domesticize it and reinstate it as a working farm. There was a nice green lawn, and we had to cut the grass away and get back to basic mud. We poured lots of water on it to make it absolutely foul, I which wasn't very popular with the crew, but it was effective on film."

A third major setting was the lovers' cottage, built as an interior/exterior on an exposed Cornish cliff. "I think you d be slightly foolish to live there, because it was extremely windy in winter, but one takes filmic license over these things," says Holland. A much fancier, pre-existing location was the large house belonging to landowner Joss Ackland and his daughter, played by Kathy Bates. "That was actually quite a nice house, with a light, airy interior, but we altered that to being rather oppressive and Victorian," the designer says Holland, whose other production design credits include Scandal and Where Angels Fear to Tread, says that most locations for Swept From the Sea were "no more than 40 minutes" from each other. The exceptions to that include the Perez character's European railway trip, shot in Yorkshire, and a few soundstage sets at Shepperton Studios. Most interesting among the latter was a lantern-lit shoreline cavern, where Amy hides the treasures she has received from the sea.

There was also a central storm sequence and shipwreck, shot in extreme southwest Cornwall. "We created that at night in a dock," says the designer. "We had to hang black drapes all around the walls of the dock, so you didn't see the Cornish stonework. The nature of a scene like that is very frenetic, lots of crashing waves and wind machines. You never linger on anything for more than a second or two.

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