The Bay of Silence
What begins as a rather serviceable thriller from Dutch filmmaker Paula van der Oest goes awry when it tries to tackle serious topics. The Bay of Silence begins with the indelible image of a frightened girl sprinting through the woods holding a suitcase. Her scream matches the sound of a motorcycle as we shift into the present day. Smoothie Euro-lead Claes Bangs shoots through a tunnel onto a cliff edge overlooking Liguria, Italy, otherwise known as The Bay of Silence, with Olga Kurylenko clinging onto the back of his motorbike. They play at catholic confession, then make love against a rock in front of a child. Van der Oest effectively captures their relationship in a series of small moments, while establishing a few mysteries. Kurylenko’s Rosalind is a widower, terrified of being alone. She balks at having her photo taken. Why is Bang’s Will Walsh so clingy and overprotective?
Based on the novel by English-Guyanese author Lisa St Aubin de Terán, there is a certain critique of British class complacency to be had. Before long the pair are back in London and married, living a seemingly idyllic middle-class lifestyle. But the prolific van der Oest has other intentions, proceeding to pivot one’s expectations every few moments. Recurring photographic materials like dark rooms, selfies, disposable cameras and even the reflective image of Rosalind’s creepy twins telegraph the obvious, inevitable key to the mystery.
These twists only work up to a point. One major, sickening plot diversion around which the second half of the film pivots on will test the audience’s willingness to go along with Will’s subsequent journey. The film is only 85 minutes long and is effectively divided into a two-part series. Brian Cox is on hand and in full ham form to sputter exposition and chew the scenery as Rosalind’s overly involved agent, while Kurylenko performs Rosalind’s Rosemary’s Baby-esque breakdown with as much detail as she can muster while being sidelined by the plot.
There is an undercurrent of interest in power structures in relationships and recovery from trauma, but the narrative is centred from Will’s point of view, always coming late to Rosalind’s revelations. By the time these threads come to bear on the plot in more significant ways, these dark themes have been so callously mishandled that they seem tacked on for shock and awe. The Bay of Silence has enough style to make you think you’re watching something classy, but its lurid storytelling is so unpleasant that it may leave the viewer feeling sick, as though they’ve eaten too much caviar.
The Bay of Silence is released digitally on demand on 28th September 2020.
Watch the trailer for The Bay of Silence here: