M has very bad memories of the film, from the beginning of the shoot in black and white, when she drank with L to comply with B’s wishes and orders. They drank whiskey to relieve tension, but I guess that’s in our nature: most of the dialogue is short and intense.
The action takes place in relative quiet, interrupted only by a series of outside sounds (the bells of a nearby church, the whistle of a passing train), a trademark of B’s rigorous and meticulous approach.
In the end, exhausted and defeated, the actors gave up everything close to a life and a will, so B could have what he wanted: their chosen bodies and neutral voices on display in a corner by the fireplace, as it were.
As the sound of executions is heard in the background, B made his so-called models repeat the phrases “lie down and sleep” and “wherever the wind blows” hundreds of times.
The characters are in strict isolation (F, like the other prisoners, knows that they are next) and F’s successful escape is no accident, as he is seen making ropes and hooks, and mapping the place. B spent the day searching for the unique sound of firebrands clattering to the floor, none of which matched his vision.
In the transition between sound and image, as M hangs up the phone to reveal that she is ready for revenge, a tapping sound is heard, followed by an image of A dancing. A as the instrument of vengeance: this technique is common today but was unknown then.
“Don’t turn your nose up. Keep your eyes open, you are not in a postcard “. She did, but B needed seven takes before he was satisfied, which means that M managed to cry seven times in a row without the help of glycerine tears and without moving her face. I have never hated anyone on a film set as much as B, she said afterwards. I carried that anger like phantom-limb pain for decades, she added.