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The Visual Design
Like the story of the film, the look of The Interpreter contrasts the light and the dark, the private and the global, the quiet and the explosive. Using Manhattan's gritty streets as a counterpoint to the U.N.'s milieu of heady power, the film production also shot in such diverse locales as the New York subway, the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, Long Island City on the East River, the Battery and the East Village, where Silvia's apartment is located.

As the production traversed the city, Pollack took advantage of the sheer variety of visuals he encountered to amp up the film's intensity and moods. "I wouldn't say New York is an easy city to shoot in,” Pollack says. "But it's so rich visually, and filming on the streets is a great abrasive, energetic antidote to the kind of sobriety of being in the U.N. There's an interesting juxtaposition that takes place graphically, architecturally and in terms of the moods of the two places. In the U.N., it's crisp design, orderly and idealistic; on the streets it's an exhilarating, chaotic sprawl. The contrast is fantastic. It's a great city to shoot in.”

Contrasts were also important in the work of production designer Jon Hutman and costume designer Sarah Edwards. Hutman found himself simultaneously researching colorful African designs and the work oriented aesthetics of intelligence agencies to create Silvia and Tobin's disparate worlds. The production designer's pièce de résistance was Silvia's private apartment, which Hutman hoped would evoke some of her secretive character's soul. He created a full-scale model inside a huge armory in Brooklyn.

"I felt the important thing to capture in the décor was a sense of a woman who sees the world in a different way from most Americans,” he says. "Here, we see how much Africa is a part of who she is and her apartment reflects a whole side of her that she tries not to bring with her into the U.N. It was a challenge, because Silvia is so complex. We thought a lot about what a woman who lives in America as a foreigner—who speaks seven languages, but isn't really at home in this city—would surround herself with. Her apartment has a unique feel, not only because of the things she's brought with her, like the African masks and the photographs of her youth, but because of how she lives. It's created from subtle details.”

When it came to re-creating the intelligence field stations and interrogation rooms where secrets are chased throughout The Interpreter, Hutman focused on an edgy realism. "The goal was always to stay faithful to the reality of these places,” he explains. "Sydney loves to do research, so we did a lot of field trips to the CIA, the FBI, the United Nations security offices, all of these, and tried as best as possible to have every design detail serve the heart and soul of Sydney's vision.”

Costume designer Sarah Edwards also did a considerable amount of hands-on research, prowling the U.N., taking notes on the various uniforms and outfits represented. Though the U.N. does issue standard uniforms for many of its employees, for security reasons, they asked the production not to reproduce them exactly. "It was a little complicated because we wanted the costumes to look authentic to anyone who has ever been to the U.N. but also to be different in certain significant ways. It was an unusual design challenge. In the end, only the trained eye can tell the differences.”

For the clothes worn by the U.N. delegates, Edwards and her crew wound up receiving a total immersion in global fashion. "Right now there are 191 nations represented at the United Nations, so we had to research the aesthetics of every single nation! We took photographs of each delegation, all 191, and carefully studied them so that each and every extra would look completely authentic,” Edwards explains. "I think we hit every single store


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