| Silent Hill - An Interview with Radha Mitchell
By: Wilson Morales
Having done “Pitch Black” early in her career, Radha Mitchell developed a fanbase in the sci-fi genre. After gaining critical acclaim for her dual performance in Woody Allen’s Melinda and Melinda, Mitchell goes from indie to horror with her role in “Silent Hill”. Directed by Christophe Gans, Mitchell plays a woman named Rose, desperate to find her child Sharon, finds herself trapped in an alternate dimension as she searches for her daughter in a world of decay inhabited by strange beings. Over the protests of her husband, she flees with her child, heading for an abandoned town to which the child seems drawn. Sharon disappears in the town, and Rose follows what she thinks is her daughter's silhouette. In speaking to blackfilm.com, Mitchell goes over her appeal for the film, her love of the sci-fi, horror genre, and balancing those films with her independent films.
What attracted you to this film?
Radha Mitchell: When I first read the script, it creeped me out. I didn’t even finish reading it. I just put it down. It was too horrible for me to keep reading late at night by myself. I picked it up the next day and finished reading it. It was daytime, so it was different kind of atmosphere, but there was something about the story that haunted me and I would just see images from the story, randomly I would be cleaning my teeth, and I would see one of those creatures from Silent Hill creeping up on me. It sounds like an exaggeration but I kind of view from that that there was something about the story that really significant and really strong, and that it was affecting me in that way. Then I saw a movie called “Brotherhood of the Wolf”, which I thought was brilliantly made and was directed by Christophe (Gans), who had directed this film, and I was really impressed that Christophe was actually a famous director in France but I didn’t know anything about him. When we met, he explained his vision for the film, and he made it seem really exciting, and I knew that it was based on a video game. There have been video games that have worked and others that haven’t on the big screen in the past, but his point of view was very sophisticated and very much that of an artist. He was very much interested in a very surreal storytelling, so I was very excited about his vision and that’s how I got involved in the film.
When you found out the video game, did you play it?
RM: I had played it since we started shooting but we started shooting, I didn’t know much about it. When we started shooting the film, I got a copy of the game and kept it in my trailer and it’s sort of those games that’s really hard to put down. You start to play it and you don’t want let go of that world that you enter, and they would be calling me to go to the set and knocking on my door and I would be like, ‘Can you hang on a minute? Okay, I’m coming, I’m coming”; so it was very distracting in some ways. I learned about my character in playing the game because the experience in watching the film is very much what it is in playing the game. When you enter Silent Hill in the game, you start by not knowing where the hell you are and you spend quite a bit of time understanding the logic of where you are and the more conscious you become of the place, the more you learn about the mystery of it. The more you learn about the mystery of it, the creepier it becomes, which is similar to the experience it becomes for my character in the story.
How was shooting the film?
RM: Shooting the film was pretty intense. When we were outside, it was freezing cold, and when we were inside, it was boiling hot. At least in the story, when you enter Silent Hill, some of the sets were filled with smoke to create that kind of atmosphere; so physically it was quite intense and a lot of what I was doing was running around as well, so I got pretty sick shooting the movie.
How was working with Sean Bean?
RM: You know, I didn’t get that much of an opportunity to work with Sean Bean. So much of what’s going on in the story is about my relationship with him and the fact that we are not connecting and we are in different dimensions, but I think there’s only scene where we are together in that scene.
Is there anything within the character that you think you can relate with?
RM: Well, when you play a character, you put a lot of yourself into it and as much as entering Silent Hill is like entering the nightmare of the character in the story. It was pretty much like experiencing my own nightmares when we were shooting it because a lot of it was with CG creatures or environments like sets that weren’t hidden so a lot of it had to be imagined; so you have to sort of reach into yourself and create some image that you were afraid of. It was pretty much my own nightmare whatever it was that was coming up on screen.
What do you love about this genre?
RM: I really love fantasy films that transport you into a different reality. I guess that’s probably why I got into acting in the first place. Even as a kid when you play in the playground, the worlds that you create are always worlds that you can never actually live in, and it’s all about what you can imagine. When you are involved in a story where you are making a fantasy world, it’s like being a kid. That’s the best thing about it.
What was the best scene you shot in the film? What did you enjoy doing?
RM: There were so many weird and strange scenes in the film. One of my favorites just because it was fun was the scene where I had to jump across all of these metal planks in order to get to little girl and we didn’t have time to rehearse it and it was above thy ground, these planks. I don’t know how many feet up it was but it was really high. So they attached me to this harness and go, “Off you go, jump”, and so you’ll see in the movie that I’m really scared. The reason is that I really was scared cause I’m jumping across these things afraid that I’m going to fall down and once you realize that you are attached to this harness and that you are pretty safe, you can fly across like Peter Pan. That sort of stuff is fun, jumping around. Among my other favorite scenes in the movie when I watched it was the last scene in the film. It’s really beautiful, and it was unexpectantly melancholic and catching. I didn’t expect the movie to be sort of like sad. It leaves you like you have seen a piece of poetry.
How much of the goriness did you like about this film?
RM: There’s some really hard core imagery in the movie and Christophe wasn’t shy about the way he depicted it. There are some images that you really don’t want to look at or you can’t look at and he stays on them and they just get worse. I saw a lot these things getting shot so I knew what they looked like but even I was shocked at seeing them and I sort or like that when a movie gets to you in that way when you can’t control your response.
You also have another creepy film coming out later this year called Rogue. Can you talk about that film?
RM: That’s a movie about a crocodile that eats people. I play a tour guide in the story and a lot of the story is about setting up the characters that are going out on this trip and then things just go wrong and you watched them all just get munched. If you saw “Wolf Creek:, which is directed by Greg Maclean. He directed this as well with the same the Australian humor and the same kind of naturalism in the way that the story is set up so it feel very real. It doesn’t feel like you are watching a killer concept film at all. That was what we were aiming for.
How do you balancing types of films and the independent films that you do?
RM: I like working on any movie that’s good. I don’t have a particular preference or genre. Any movie that affects you emotionally whether it makes you scream or makes you cry or whether it makes you laugh, if it has a strong point of view and it actually touches you, then it’s a movie that I want to be involved in someway. The balance is just finding the material that you like and finding directors that you want to work with.
Why should we see Silent Hill?
RM: You should see it because it’s very scary and it’s the kind of movie you can take your date to and have an excuse to grab on to them and it’s like a gourmet popcorn movie. Ultimately, I would go see it because I think it’s beautiful. I think there’s poetry in it and something that you haven’t seen before.
SILENT HILL opens on April 21st, 2006