THE WOMAN IN BLACK
Eel Marsh House And A Glimpse At Locations Beyond
For Watkins, crafting a modern period film was an intriguing contradiction and
wanted to use to his visual advantage. "When people ask me what the time period
which the film is set, I'm very evasive. I see this film in a way akin to a Tim
film. It's a story about a guy who gets on a train and lands in this other world
At the center of this 'other world' is a house that becomes a key character in
Eel Marsh House - the former home of Kipps' deceased client, and the location
he discovers the Woman in Black - was an important focus of the production's
and production design.
"We scouted all over the country to find the right exterior location," notes
"We ultimately found this beautiful house in Peterborough which has a wonderful
sense without being too caricature."
"It's a very brooding house and seems to have a lot of mystery around it which
cool," adds Oakes.
Production designer Kave Quinn, whose past films include Layer Cake and
Trainspotting, found it perfectly spooky: "It almost has eyes. It's a Jacobean
with a gable at the front which gives it an incredible evil look."
In defining the look of Eel Marsh House, Watkins was keen not to play to ghost
stereotypes. "I wanted it to have this sense of decay, but I didn't want it to
monochromatic clichÃ©," he says.
With Quinn, he sought instead to make use of a rich color palette, resulting in
decidedly more highly saturated look than convention would suggest. "We have
kinds of bruised colors," continues Watkins. "The colors of decay and death:
blacks and rich, deep crimsons. I really wanted the sense of the beauty of the
come through. At the same time, it's a haunted house, it has to have nooks and
and crevices and dark spaces."
Quinn sat down with Watkins to fine tune her designs for the interior which were
on a rough blueprint of the exterior (interior sets were then built on stages).
together loads of research materials on things like staircases and panelling,"
"Kave did wonders as a production designer," compliments Watkins. "She really
understood what I was trying to get at. We designed long corridors so I could
depth in the frame in the Polanski sense of looking through doorways and half
Watkins continues - "A ghost story is what you can't quite see - what's in the
the frame and in the margins. That was something we built into the production
If there are blanks for the audience members' imaginations to fill in, what they
dream up will almost always be scarier than anything we could show so we
designed the sets so it's more about what you half see. There are moments when
look out a window and wonder 'Is there something out there?' because there's
glimpse. That's terrifying and creepy, and creates a growing sense of danger."
With Eel Marsh House's exterior and interior fleshed out, the next order of
to find a location for the village of Crythin Gifford. The search proved
"Being that it's the 21st Century, obviously anywhere we'd find would be full of
and road signs and newer buildings that would need covering up," explains Quinn.
wanted to try and find somewhere that had almost been untouched by time. The
we found, Halton Gill, is right in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales (an upland
Northern England). It hasn't been over-developed, so all the houses are original
something like 400 years ago."
"It is important that the village conveys a sense of isolation," says Oakes.
Gill, we could play in terms of build and design in a way we couldn't really do
Other key locations include Bluebell Railway in Sussex, which served as the
location for the scenes bookending Kipps' journey, and a remote marshland.
"Bluebell Railway was selected because the story requires working steam
but we also had the need for more than one station and Bluebell enables us to
from station A to station B," notes Jackson.
The marshland leading up to Eel Marsh House is one of the more bleak images in
film. The marshland they found had the perfect look and feel, reinforced by the
dangers associated with the shooting location. "One of the locals told us that
at a certain
time of day the tide rises above your head within 10 minutes and if you go 10
into the marsh you can lose your footing and be sucked under," recalls Watkins.
was quite chilling to hear and we used that bit of info in the film."
Aside from choosing the right locations, much of the film's atmosphere rested
lighting. "It's as much about the lighting as anything," notes Watkins.
Cinematographer Tim Maurice-Jones (Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels)
says that the primary direction he got from Watkins to define the look of the
one simple word: "contrast." "We tried to light the sets with a single source of
only," explains Maurice-Jones. "A lot of films will use a key light to light the
face, a fill
light to light any shadow that's left, and a backlight to pick them out against
background. We tried to use light and shade to achieve that sense of contrast
Finally, the look of the film owes a great deal to the editorial process as
editor Jon Harris
explains. "James is great at coming up with ideas for things to pop in just to
make it a
little creepier," says Harris. "It's a very back-and-forth process between us.
things together and see what works and then if he's still on the same set he can
something to it, or apply the idea to another scene."
He continues: "We tried to achieve something akin to peripheral vision. Although
don't believe in ghosts, whenever I go into an old house I find things moving in
peripheral vision. We've been talking a lot about how to achieve that on film,
you can try to make the audience look at one thing, but they'll look wherever
Watkins describes his relationship with Harris as incredibly collaborative. The
worked together on Watkins' feature debut, Eden Lake, as well as Harris'
debut The Descent: Part 2, which Watkins co-wrote. "Jon was a big part of the
constructing of the film pre-edit," he reveals. "He shot Second Unit and was
a part of the script collaboration process with me and Jane."
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