A wildlife sanctuary becomes the hunting ground for a serial killer in director Robin Pront’s new film THE SILENCING, out in theaters, on VOD, and Digital August 14.
In this eerie crime drama from Saban Films, Rayburn’s (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) mission to find his missing daughter turns deadly when he discovers a mysterious figure is hunting young women in his own backyard. While the film presents itself as a classic thriller, THE SILENCING sets itself apart from similar genre fare by exploring themes of loss, grief, and addiction in a small town.
I had a chance to talk with director Robin Pront to discuss the film, his process, and his obsession with dark topics.
Could you tell me a little bit about how you got involved with the production of THE SILENCING? What drew you to the project?
Robin Pront: I was sent the script back in 2018, and I just really connected with it because it’s rare these days that you get a script with multi-layered characters [that are] morally ambiguous. I also just loved the [idea] of a small-town crime murder mystery. I just gravitate toward those kinds of premises in film. When I read the script, I was like “Wow, I gotta do this.” So, I [transferred] that enthusiasm to the producers, and that’s how I got attached to the project.
You said you gravitate to darker stories about crime and mystery. Those are very somber genres to immerse yourself in. What is the experience like to eat, sleep, and breathe such a dark story?
Robin Pront: I think it’s just how I’m wired. I just like the darker stuff. In everything: in art, in books. I love all types of true crime stuff. I have this weird obsession with watching prison documentaries and horrible things about concentration camps before I go to bed. I don’t know. The dark side of humanity just something I gravitate toward. It just fascinates me.
Your filming style is very clear and straightforward. I’d almost liken it to precise prose. How did you develop that style? What makes you want to tell stories visually this way?
Robin Pront: It was a combination of a lot of things. What I thought would be original for [THE SILENCING] was [for it to have] some kind of European social realist vibe to it, you know? [Like] a lot of the handheld [camera work] and getting close up with the characters in the wild and the nature to create distance. The combination of the two [styles] was something that I thought would be cool.
Also, sometimes it’s faster, you know? You’re working in the woods. You don’t have time to put [camera] tracks everywhere. So it also has an economical, realistic side to it. But it felt really right for this movie. In my previous movie, everything was a lot more composed and controlled with tracking shots and all that stuff. And just wanted to do something different for this film.
But visually, I just love these dark, bleak images, but always I’m looking for color in the movie. When people say that the movie’s very dark, I agree. But I try to work with color as well. Me and my DP, we try to put a lot of color in the image. I love dark movies that are still bright with colors. Like Good Time by the Safdie brothers.
THE SILENCING has a lot of twists and turns that play so great. In stories like this, it’s important to give the audience clues about where the film is going without revealing too much. How do you as a director approach the challenge of walking that line?
Robin Pront: That’s always the thing. You work on set, but there’s always the edit. So, when you’re talking about clues, you just shoot and when you get to the edit, you decide what you need. You don’t want to be into the edit and thinking “Oh man, I did not shoot that, but I need it now,” so you try to work your way around it. You have to be confident, you know? You have to be like, “This is the story I want to tell.”
I think the most important thing for a director is getting the tone right. You have to be the guardian of the tone of the movie. That’s the most important thing.
Building off that, you’re kind of a magician at building tension. As a viewer, you can feel the tension building, but you can’t pinpoint exactly what you–as the director–are doing to build it. Are you finding that tension in the edit, or do you have a good idea where you’re going before you even start shooting?
Robin Pront: Well, there are certain moments, of course, in the script, [where] you say, “Alright, I want to do this here.” Like I said, I try to visualize the movie in my head, and then I go to set, and block it with the actors. And sometimes something happens while you’re shooting that you hadn’t even thought of, and you’re like, “OK this is great. Let’s do it like this.”
You’re always thinking about it, you know? [I’ve said before], you make your movie three times. You do it while you’re writing; you do it while you’re shooting, and you do it in the edit. It’s always three different movies.
This was a wonderful conversation, and I hope that so many people get a chance to see THE SILENCING.
THE SILENCING will be available in theaters, On Demand, and On Digital August 14, 2020. To learn more about the film, check out our review here.