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SWEPT FROM THE SEA

SYNOPSIS:
An introspective young woman and social outsider, Amy Foster (Rachel Weisz), lives a mundane existence as a servant to the Smith family at the remote New Barns Farm in Cornwall, around the middle of the 19
th century. When she discovers the shipwrecked Ukranian, Yanko (Vincent Perez), sole survivor of a ship headed for America, her life instantly begins to change. Drawn to the poetic nature beneath the wild appearance, Amy is fascinated by this young man, an outsider – just like she. But Yanko is shunned by the closeted community, except for the local Dr Kennedy (Ian McKellen) who recognises his innate goodness. Miss Swaffer (Kathy Bates) also sees good in him, and employs Yanko on her farm. When Amy and Yanko fall in love, the community embark on a vindictive campaign against the two, rejecting them even in their dire moment of need.

"The camera sweeps over the waves curling on the sea, towards a steep cliff and rises to reveal two lone figures on the rugged top: a mother and her small son. John Barry is there, too, making melodic, fluid music for the images. She points to the deep, wide water, telling the boy he ‘came from the sea’. We don’t get to understand the meaning behind these words until much later in the film, but we do immediately grasp that we are going to see something special, in this moving, at times saddening and memorable film. Beeban Kidron’s dramatic and romantic senses combine forcefully, and she elicits tremendous performances from the little known actors (the ones in the lead, that is – she gets the best out of the better known ones, too, like McKellen, Bates and Ackland). She also invents a rather unusual love scene in a cave with a pond, which is a welcome change from usual treatment of sex in period films. The script is at once poignant and economical, Kidron often telling as much with pictures as with words. The production design manages to absolutely convince us that we are in often muddy and stormy 19th century Cornwall, while Dick Pope’s lighting camera work is frequently reminiscent of Rembrandt’s moods and tones. There are shots of small, two wheel carriages in the middle of the anamorphic frame that stretches out to reveal the emptiness of the Cornish moors, a potent symbol of the emptiness in the hearts of those little village people who are afraid of strangers (or of anyone different) to a dangerous degree. And deep inside it all, pounding steadily, is the heart of the film, a love story - endearing and warming."
Andrew L. Urban

"Poetic, romantic and visually exquisite, Swept From the Sea is a haunting love story exuding a fable-like quality. Beeban Kidron’s cinematic journey is a moving visual experience with poignant characters, strong performances and a music score that sweeps into the psyche with beautiful melodies and memorable themes. The story of two outcasts who find each other is ultimately a romantic tale, with the timeless elements of drama, tragedy and romance. Rachel Weisz is stunning as Amy Foster, her serene beauty personified in her appealing performance as a free spirit. Amy is the epitome of a romantic heroine - passionate, headstrong, compassionate and loyal. She perceives her ultimate gift from the sea as part of her destiny. Strongly counteracted by Vincent Perez as Yanko, the two manage to light up the screen, with Kathy Bates, Ian McKellen and Joss Ackland providing solid, experienced support. Kidron uses effective tools to accomplish her vision: rugged landscapes, artistic cinematography, emotive music and moody production design. Nature’s treachery is pitted alongside the town’s small mindedness, discrimination and resentment; a marked contrast to the free, passionate relationship of the lovers. As picturesque as a painting, Swept From the Sea will sweep you into a world of cinematic poetry."
Louise Keller

"This is the kind of epic romantic drama they rarely make these days, which is unfortunate. Harking back to the likes of Ryan's Daughter and Polanski's Tess, Swept by the Sea is a glorious work, one of sweeping vistas and fascinating characters. The British know how to add dimension to their characters, bringing them to life with great depth. Such as the case of a film whose old fashioned sensibilities may have trouble finding an audience, but once found, they're bound to be swept up in the sheer romanticism of this tale of two outsiders fighting against prejudice and small town values. Though a period film, it by no means fits into a period milieu; the issues it raises are as pertinent today as when Joseph Conrad told of them in his short story Amy Foster (the film's original title). Visually, the film is hypnotic, as the jagged coastline of Cornwall takes on a vital character of its own. In the role of Amy, Rachel Weisz is magnificent. Not only a beautiful figure on screen, but she so deftly conveys Amy's emotional twists and turns, and her inner strength. Vincent Perez is also effective as the man who changes her life, while Ian McKellen is striking as the harsh doctor. Swept by the Sea is a poetic and emotive tale that unfolds with quiet lyricism yet has moments of passion. As sweeping as its rural vistas, this is a film that caters for a mature audience, and that is a rarity in itself."
Paul Fischer

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 4
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0
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Cast and credits are listed at bottom of this column

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Attending the 1997 Toronto Film Festival for the premiere of Swept by the Sea,
RACHEL WEISZ

talked to PAUL FISCHER:

The alabaster skin is unmistakable, as is the graciousness of this British star-on- the-rise. Able to mask her more conventional British voice behind characters who are clearly different from her own, there's something ethereal about the 27-year old Londoner.

"She had qualities that I really admire"

"One of the things hat fascinated me about this character was playing someone riddled with secrets," the actress explains. "But the main thing that drew me to her was that she had qualities that I really admire, and I wish had more of. An inner sense of identity and strength, and she doesn't need the justification of others to condone what she does, which I think is an AMAZING thing, possibly to the point of being mad. She just DOESN'T CARE what anyone thinks of her." Weisz adds that this trait in Amy Foster has developed "because she's in a certain amount of pain. I don't think she's had a very happy life, but I think she's found a way of finding happiness through some fantasy life." Perhaps this is the one thing that the actress has in common with her fictional alter ego. "As we all know, actors are repressed people, and we tend to find fulfilment through fantasy."

Rachel Weisz first caught the attention of her fellow Brits when she co- starred with Ewan McGregor in the BBC miniseries Scarlet and Black (1993), but the Cambridge University graduate had previously formed her own theatre company. "It was a small company - just me and another girl, actually, and we used to do these really bizarre, avant-garde pieces of theatre. But nevertheless, it was an exciting time being a student and mounting these shows," Weisz recalls. She remembers her last play at uni, which was transferred to the London stage, "was just me, another girl and a stepladder", but she wouldn't be drawn on what she did with the stepladder. Hardly an auspicious beginning for movie stardom, one surmises. "No, possibly THAT stage work didn't prepare me", she concedes laughingly.

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SWEPT FROM THE SEA (M)
(UK)

 

CAST: Vincent Perez, Rachel Weisz, Ian McKellen, Joss Ackland, Kathy Bates, Tom Bell, Zoe Wanamaker, Tony Haygarth, Fiona Victory

DIRECTOR: Beeban Kidron

PRODUCER: Polly Tapson, Charles Steel, Beeban Kidron

SCRIPT: Tim Willocks (inspired by the short story, Amy Foster, by Joseph Conrad)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dick Pope

EDITOR: Alex Mackie, Andrew Mondishein

MUSIC: John Barry

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Simon Holland

RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes

 

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Col TriStar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 30, 1998







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