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TAMARA DREWE

The Look And Feel Of Tamara Drewe
"The biggest challenge was finding Stonefield, the principal location for Nicholas and Beth,” says Production Designer Alan Macdonald. "The house we found, Limbury, at Salwayash in Dorset is perfect as groundwork to embellish. But I felt it needed softening on the exterior. We put roses growing up the wall, we put a lot of planting around the garden, and we totally replanted a vegetable garden to hide much more formal hedges and planting. We are filming the end of the summer which we should have been filming six weeks ago! So we've had to add plastic colour everywhere, which of course works in our favour because it doesn't fade and won't wilt during the shooting. We painted the outbuildings, we've done up sheds, moved cows in, put up fencing... It's the kind of film where I feel the design is obviously very important, but at the same time I want it to have a totally naturalistic feel. The embellishment is totally harmonious with the natural foundation we found.”

Again, Posy Simmonds' illustrations became a major reference point for the production design: "Graphic novels don't fundamentally lend themselves to naturalism, there is a heightened reality I think. I realised that if I was going to be faithful to the graphic novel, on one hand I felt it should be founded in realism. But the other thing I noticed is that Posy often works with very defined colour palettes in her drawings. And that led me on to being very defined about colour palettes, particularly with the interiors. There's a creaminess, ‘Dorset cream' I call it, for the world of Stonefield. There's a lack of blue in Stonefield for example. Posy seemed to always draw Stonefield in a kind of red/brown/yellow spectrum. When we go to Winnards, where Tamara Drewe's mother lived, where Tamara grew up as a teenager and where she's returned to, that her mother's house is very strongly blue, which is how Posy drew it. But that house morphs throughout the film, because she gets Andy to do the house up. So we strip the blue away, and we go into a much more organic colour palette. Flashes of bright red arrive within the interiors when Tamara Drewe is having her affair with Nicholas Hardiment.” And as always, the Production Designer's job is to make sure the design serves story and character: "The interesting thing about the world of Stonefield is that ultimately it's a construction of Beth Hardiment. There's an extreme psychosis going on here. She's on the edge, while keeping everything together ‘marvellously', it's an immaculate world that she's invented of cooking, cleaning, accounting, managing, entertaining, hostessing... There's a control that you'll see when you go to the interiors. And I felt that Nicholas Hardiment's shed had to be the one place where he was able to express his personality. And ultimately it's the embodiment of the mind of a fifteen-year-old boy, who's never grown up. He's a man who's never grown up, a mummy's boy.”

The temporal duality of the film, with the echoes of Thomas Hardy filtering through this very modern story, also presented a challenge for Macdonald: "I said to Stephen that I saw the village fundamentally as the kind of village you would look for if you were doing a period film. Rather than stripping out all the 21st century elements, I wanted to embellish it. It's the modern rubbish that interested me in terms of design, like putting in a grotty old bus shelter and graffiti, and contemporary graphics – 30 mph signs, rubbish bins outside houses, everything that you would cringe at and want to take out of a period shoot, I wanted to put in and add to. My philosophy was – it's a period film, but put in all the modern rubbish.”

The filmmakers ended up having to use two Stonefields – one for the interiors, and one for the exteriors: "The proportions of the interior spaces of these 17th/18th century farmhouses are very claustrophobic. We were very lucky that in our travels, we'd been to look at one house called Blackdown, which was built on a much grander scale. It had a sort of romantic quality that I felt the interior spaces at Limbury lacked. It has a beautiful staircase, it has a marvellous kitchen/dining room which enabled us to link rooms in a much more economical way in terms of shooting. Those journeys are much easier to narratively follow.”

Costume Designer Consolata Boyle faced her own challenges on Tamara Drewe: "I think contemporary movies are by far the most difficult to costume. Fortunately all of the creative people involved have an overall vision to which we adhere and that places certain limitations and certain disciplines on you, which is useful because otherwise you'd have visual chaos because anyone could then wear what they like. There has to be coherence between every character, a colour scheme, an arc of how the character develops, the moods and emotions change, so that every piece of the costume is telling a part of the story and has a reason to be there. It should all work together - costume, the production design, the lighting - within the director's overall vision. And if you keep the overall in your head at all times, things slot into place and they are not indiscriminate.”

In the case of Tamara Drewe herself, this meant for Consolata: "Well I think she's very self conscious, she knows exactly what she's doing, she knows how seductive she is, she's very aware, so I have reflected that. Again it's in Posy's drawings, it's so beautifully portrayed: there's a lot of skin exposed when she's definitely going for something or for somebody, or wants something or is manipulating someone. You can see how she dresses for that - slightly more figure hugging, more of her body exposed and when she relaxes into herself there's less of that. We did it subtly when we could, but sometimes it's quite obvious what she is doing and that is the way and the fun and complexity of the woman. You can see her ambiguity and her lack of self-awareness comes in that way; she immediately becomes this manipulative poser, while underneath there is someone deeper and more profound, gentler and thoughtful. So there are two people working at the same time. There's the public face and the private reality.”

And while writers are not renowned for their sartorial elegance, that in itself provided another challenge for Consolata and her team: "Dressing somebody who doesn't care how they dress is just as difficult as dressing someone who is obsessed with clothes.”

Composer Alexandre Desplat's question initially was a more fundamental one: "Some films call for a score because there are moments of time passing, or cavalry battles, or huge emotional scenes for a love story, or these very strong melancholic moments of a character. And in Tamara Drewe, there's an energy driven by both the dramaturgy, the choral structure of the characters, and by the humour – the dark humour of the film. And when I first saw it, I sensed – mmm, do we really need to write a score for this film?”

For Desplat, his job in scoring the film was more to lead the narrative and underwrite the pauses between the action, enabling Frears and Editor Mick Audsley to skip from the darker to the lighter moments of the film, rather than to highlight the action. "It's a movie which is very much dialogue driven – you can ruin the balance. And if the music is too comic or too comedic, too dark or too suspenseful, suddenly you make the movie balance to the wrong side.”

"I let the audience appreciate the moments of emotion. I think that's what Stephen likes, that I can make space. Leave space for the acting moments and the strong emotional moments to be by themselves, without pushing with the music. It's just there, giving weight, and also a way of balancing - kee

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