Scene Is Believing: Skyfall

skyfall silva

Searching for Silva-man In The City of Lost Children

Director Sam Mendes’ intention with James Bond’s Straw Dogs meets Home Alone siege  at Skyfall, his gloomy ancestral home, was to “go back in time”; to both exorcise some manufactured ghosts in the two dimensional agents life, and acknowledge a “purer” period before “exploding pens.” Equally, villain Silva (Javier Bardem) is a man out of time, a former MI6 agent tormented by betrayal and a slow (cyanide) burn desire for revenge. Fitting that his own off the grid hideaway is a decaying, abandoned island city that resembles the limbo level of Cobb’s guilty dreamscape from Inception. Just one of Christopher Nolan’s influences on the superspy in his Golden anniversary.

Not simply limbo or stasis though – purgatory, neither Heaven nor Hell. Silva’s taunt to Judy Dench’s M is “Think on your sins.” This applies to him too, for what they did to each other in Hong Kong before the change of Government, when he was cast out, a fallen angel.  He may try on a different look – flamboyant tailoring (the tan blazer evokes a swish Roger Moore), mannered speech, bizarre blonde hair – but he is rotten inside, a Jaws for the new Millennium.

Severine (Berenice Marlohe) shakily explains to Bond that Silva effected the evacuation of the island city by cyber fearmongering and has set up shop himself, master of a crumbling domain, with only his silent mercenaries and numerous hard drives for company.  The unusual location was based on Hashima Island off the coast of Nagasaki. It is actually built on the backlot at Pinewood by Dennis Gassner, augmented by CGI. In John Logan’s first draft script, Bond is knocked out on the yacht Chimera, and his first glimpse of Silva is when he wakes onboard to find him in the cabin. Mendes felt he needed a more dramatic entrance, so filmed Bond and Severine being walked through the crumbling streets, until Bond is tied to a chair inside one of the buildings large rooms. An elevator descends at the far end and Silva exits, walking towards Bond, framed by computer hardware, monologuing his weird little story about rats on an island, in one take, all in perfect focus.

Bardem translated his speech into his native Spanish and learnt it that way, asking questions on nuance and punctuation, until he had it perfectly prepared to deliver in English. He is unsettlingly polite, smiling. Mendes’ key made up word to him was, “uncomfortableness.” Silva’s caressing of Bond’s wounded clavicle and thighs was “part of the game,” he told “But it wasn’t the entire game. Sexuality was there as something important to create a behaviour but it’s not the main thing. The main goal was uncomfortableness. Create something unexpected.” Topped off beautifully by Daniel Craig’s Bond, that famously old Etonian, saying “What makes you think this is my first time?” and Silva’s mock shock reaction: “Oh Mr Bond!”

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Silva compares the parlous state of Bond’s bedrock faith: “MI6 -pfft. Empire..” to the Communist ruins he lives among. While M(ommy) dearest abandoned both her boys to their fates and Silva dwells unheathily on it, Bond clings on to duty, and cites his hobby as “Resurrection”.

One of the nods to Bond history, both cinematic and literary, comes next as Silva puts Bond through a sick game, leading him through a ruined square to where Severin is tied to a shattered fallen statue. Charles Trenet’s Boum plays over loudspeakers in ironic counterpoint, an acknowledgement of her French / Asian heritage. Forced to shoot a 50 year old tumbler of whisky off her head with an ancient duelling pistol, he downs his own glass (as Bond often does to steady his nerve in the books) before, at gunpoint, shakily aiming and missing. Disappointed, Silva casually shoots her with nary a glance. Bond, seemingly callously remarking on the waste of good scotch to mentally disarm the goons (this could have been done better, with a close-up of Bond’s face registering anger and pain, to disarm the many criticisms of this moment), then springs into action, taking them all out and securing Silva for capture, a temporary victory. Eve’s amended words spring to mind: “Old (hair of the) dog, new tricks.”




Originally posted 2013-02-28 07:09:16. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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