The Silence: articles

Roxburgh cops to it

RICHARD Roxburgh has warned viewers they will need to be on their toes to keep up with the layers that drive his two-part drama, The Silence, when it premieres on Sunday.

"It is a very dense story, a terrifically complex thing, and the audience is going to have to stay thinking to follow it," he says.

"And, because it is showing on the ABC, people won't be able to use ad breaks to talk to each other and figure out what is going on; they won't be able to turn to the person sitting next to them on the couch and ask 'who was that character'.

"Producing a drama for the ABC opens up all sorts of possibilities because it meant we could take a lot more risks and could experiment more than if it was destined for commercial television."

The Silence which also stars Essie Davis, Alice McConnell and Emily Barclay tells the story of a policeman who discovers a mystery in some old crime-scene photographs while he's on desk duty after failing to prevent a woman's murder.

But Roxburgh says the police setting, and the murder-mystery storyline, were peripheral as The Silence was more a tale of human behaviour and a man struggling with his life.

"It's a story about the inability of male grief and it's about family, the loss of family and the dissolution of marriage," he says.

"My character is curating a photo exhibition on the history of crime-scene photography and in that world he starts to unravel a mystery that develops an importance in the world of his own family.

"But it's not really about a cop at all, apart from the fact that there is this evolving murder-mystery, but I think his profession was chosen as a setting because police stories are a natural seat of human drama as there is always something going on.

"Police work is so dramatic in itself, because there are always murders and robberies, and all that combines with the internal human drama.

"My character's a very troubled man and that was good fun for me to play, he gets exposed and there is nowhere for him to hide."

Roxburgh, who won an AFI Award in 1997 for his role in Doing Time for Patsy Cline, says the old crime-scene photos that drives his character were also important to the story development.

Because these pictures were analysed in such detail by Roxburgh's character, Detective Richard Treloar, and his accidental offsider Evelyn Hutchison, who is played by the up-and-coming Barclay, the detail had to be "incredibly specific".

For one photo, which featured two dead bodies in a street, more than 50 extras had to be dressed in circa-1964 costumes and buildings with shop fronts of the era were created from scratch using loads of stand-ins and pre-production time.

"We also shot in Sydney last winter which meant we were creating a very novel take on the city that shows it as a place with real darkness to it, and that helped set the mood for everything," Roxburgh says.

"Sydney, when you see it from that perspective, really has a fragile human beauty to it."

The Silence, ABC, Sunday and April 9, 8.30pm

By Sarah Nicholson
March 29, 2006
The Courier Mail