FROM TIME TO TIME - The Look of the Film

Julian Fellowes discusses the cinematography and production of FROM TIME TO TIME:
“I had a fantastic team on this. Really, what we were trying to achieve was a contrast between the Regency, where there’s quite a lot of money, servants and wonderful clothes, all in brilliant colours, with marvellous lighting – all tremendously romantic, in permanent summer – with Christmas 1944. There you have the war when it’s winter and there isn’t much money and everything’s rather faded and muted. Normally within a film, you establish a palette and work within that, but in this film we’re working with two contrasting palettes. It’s been interesting for me, but of course it was a challenge, because in a way the production team was designing two films. Alan Almond, our director of photography, has reflected that in the way they have photographed the whole thing. I’m thrilled with what they have come up with, I think it’s terrific.”

Producer Liz Trubridge adds: “Alan Almond has done the most beautiful job for us. He’s not scared of letting actors walk into the shadow and for this story that’s absolutely right. It’s exquisite lighting.”

Production designer Luciana Arrighi was hugely inspired by her visit to the Manor at Hemingford Grey in Cambridgeshire. She explains: “I had not read the books, so I immediately did so, after which we visited the original Green Knowe house, where Lucy M. Boston lived. The house is enchanting and a great inspiration for us. It’s Norman, with a Georgian façade, and it had a wing which burned down, just as in the book. Lucy M. Boston has written of the objects in the house and you see them when you visit. For me, that was wonderful, as we’ve been able to incorporate many of them into the film. For those that have read the books, they will notice there are lots of little touches that I’ve brought into the sets. We saw the original gramophone and in the film it’s there in the music room. There’s a rocking horse, Russian dolls, birdcages – all things that Lucy Boston wove into her stories. They are all incorporated and I hope it all adds a little magic.”

Arrighi continues: “For me the interesting thing was that the film goes back and forth between two eras. We decided on two looks; the bleak, cold, wartime look, in contrast to the Regency, which was full of vibrant colours in the costumes and sets. To me, that’s a very interesting part of the filming process - to keep experimenting with these looks. For example, the kitchen we have in 1809 is bustling, full of wonderful china, shining copper pots on the shelves, great baskets of foods coming in – it’s abundance galore and there are great dinner parties for twenty people being prepared every night. Then you come to 1944 and you know they’ve just been shopping and they’re bringing out the Camp coffee, the ration books are being ticked off and the kitchen is bleak. Even so, in one little corner there’s a little stove and there is a little warm corner where the housekeeper has got her magazines and radio. So it’s a very different life.”

Costume designer Jane Robinson was enticed by the challenges of the script: “It’s a beautiful script and a designer’s dream because you have the total contrast of the 1944 period with the 1809 period and Julian had some very strong ideas about the colours and tone and how to contrast the 1944 sequences, which would be gloomy, compared to the Regency period, which he wanted to be very lush and lavish and glamorous.”

She continues, on the Regency period: “Because the whole story is about the wealth of the family and the jewels, you couldn’t really dress Maria in a simple muslin dress and then have her wear big diamonds, rubies and emeralds, so we decided to notch it up and use some very strong colour for her, rather than what everybody is used to seeing from this period.”

An element of the Regency story is the theft of Maria’s fortune in jewels and Robinson very artfully met the challenge of designing realistic jewels. She explains: “Julian’s biggest concern was that we needed a large volume of jewels, but that they needed to look real and not, as Julian would say, as if Maria got them out of a Christmas cracker. I did manage to find a few really good pieces, but for the main necklace of the story I found a painting of Empress Josephine wearing a huge ruby, diamond and pearl necklace and we had that copied and that’s the feature necklace and it’s huge and hopefully outstanding.”

In terms of the Second World War story, Robinson says, “we wanted to make 1944 a little more subdued, a little sadder. A lady is losing her house, her son is missing in the war, she doesn’t really much care for her daughter-in-law. It was muted and quiet and it makes a marvellous contrast with the household in the earlier period. In addition, Julian did not want Maggie to look frail; he wanted her to look lovely. She has always been an elegant and aristocratic lady and we thought she’d have had some excellent clothes from the pre-war years.”

[Information courtesy of Milk Publicity]

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