First of all I’d like to point out that this feature is a Spanish film (as if it wasn’t obvious from the one sheet) that features no English, so if that’s not your thing then you have been warned. If you don’t mind then I can tell you that you’re in for a real treat.
What I wasn’t expecting was to be taken on the roller coaster of a journey that I was taken on. This is a seriously stunning film to watch, tells a great story, is rich in atmosphere and has everything going for it. It certainly keeps you on your toes and is kind of hypnotic in its flawlessness.
Miscellaneous facts about the film:
Premiered at the Cannes Film Festival where it received a 10 minute standing ovation.
When the writer told the little girl who plays the blind orphan that she had pretty eyes, she replied, “Oh, do you like them? I picked them out myself!” What he didn’t know: She was diagnosed at a very young age with a degenerative eye disease that was going to leave her blind. One of the last things her parents did while she could still see was let her see a big selection of glass eyes and choose the ones she wanted.
This scored the biggest box office opening for a film in its native Spain, outgrossing the similarly successful Pan’s Labyrinth (2006).
Overawed at being in the company of acting veteran Geraldine Chaplin, J.A. Bayona broke the ice on her first day by hiding under a bed and grabbing her leg when she knelt down in the dark. Chaplin’s scream in the film is one of genuine surprise.
The orphanage was an old colonial house in the town of Llanes. As a lot of J.A. Bayona’s cinematic plans were impossible to achieve on location, several parts of the house had to be recreated on a soundstage. In fact, over 80% of the film was shot in a studio.
Over 400 children auditioned for the role of Simon.
Although uncredited, Guillermo del Toro plays the doctor at the Emergency Ward who tends to Laura after she injures her leg.
The top grossing film in Spain in 2007, outperforming Shrek the Third (2007) and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007).
‘Sergio G. Sanchez’ wrote the screenplay in 1996, ending up in J.A. Bayona’s lap in 2004. Bayona then approached his friend, Guillermo del Toro, to help him produce the film and double the budget and shooting schedule.
To spice things up, director Juan Antonio Bayona would improvise things while shooting scenes to surprise the actors, like running on the background and hiding to suddenly startle them.
One of the orphaned children Laura identifies in the photo she is shown she calls “Guillermo”, an obvious nod to the Producer of the film. You also see his name during the scene where the window behind Laura smashes and she reveals the names of the old orphans and the dolls.
To prepare for her role, J.A. Bayona had ‘Belen Rueda’ watch Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and The Innocents (1961).
‘Belen Rueda’ was J.A. Bayona’s first choice for the lead from the start. This was mainly after seeing her performance in Alejandro Amenábar’s The Sea Inside (2004).
‘Sergio G. Sanchez’ originally wanted to direct his own screenplay but soon found that no Spanish production company would let an untried director helm such a major project.
J.A. Bayona wanted the film to hark back in tone to 1970s Spanish cinema. Hence the casting of Geraldine Chaplin who had starred in two successful films from that period, Anna and the Wolves (1973) and Cría Cuervos (1976).
Spain’s Official Submission to the Best Foreign Language Film Category of the 80th Annual Academy Awards (2008).