THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS.
The eye, steely blue in color, possesses a piercing, chilling gaze that is both eerie and enigmatic. Standing roughly 30 meters tall and 50 meters wide, this giant, movable painted iris — a surreal sight by even the most Dali-esque standards — is the centerpiece of the production of Giacomo Puccini’s opera Tosca that’s currently being performed at the Seebühne floating stage on the shores of Lake Constance in Bregenz, Austria. Several hundred people in evening attire were gathered at the Seebühne (or Lake Stage) earlier this week. They were not, however, there for Tosca, but rather to serve as extras in a scene being shot for the upcoming James Bond film, Quantum of Solace.
Rotten Tomatoes and our sister sites IGN.com, MySpace.com, and AskMen.com were among the select few media outlets invited to the set. We were there to see director Marc Forster film a sequence in which 007 (played once again by Daniel Craig) attends a production of Tosca at the Lake Stage in order to spy on the story’s central villain, Dominic Greene (portrayed by Mathieu Amalric). Still nursing a broken heart over the betrayal and loss of his beloved Vesper Lynd at the end of Casino Royale, Bond has vowed to track down those responsible for her treachery and suicide. Casino Royale ends as 007 locates Vesper’s contact Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), an important player in this shadowy network, at his gorgeous lakeside estate in Italy and then shoots him in the knee before making his first introduction as “Bond, James Bond.”
Quantum of Solace picks up almost immediately where Casino Royale left off, with Bond interrogating Mr. White in order to find out who his associates are. Bond’s quest for answers — and possibly revenge — leads him to the Festival Opera House in Bregenz. The scene that we observed being filmed takes place early on in the story. A tuxedo-clad Bond tracks Mr. White to the opera, where a meeting between White and his fellow conspirators — including Greene and his henchman Elvis (played by Anatole Taubman) — is taking place during the first-act Te Deum scene of Puccini’s Tosca.
Bond, as Quantum director Marc Forster explained, “is trying to figure out who these people are and what is the relationship between them, because he’s realizing just how many there are. He’s trying to figure out how they are connected because the interesting thing is we have several bad guys in this movie. Dominic Greene is the lead one but there are a couple of other ones and he’s trying to connect them all.” After noticing that the bad guys are communicating with each other via ear pieces, Bond manages to procure one — you can imagine how — so that he can eavesdrop on them. After observing their movements from backstage, Bond makes his way down into the seating area, passing by Mr. White, who wryly comments to his date as several of the “guests” begin to leave the auditorium, “Tosca isn’t for everyone.”
Next: Paying homage to the classic days of Bond.
This sequence, which Forster described as being more about Hitchcockian suspense than Bondian action, was shot at the Bregenz opera house over the course of nine days this month. “I just came here and I loved this location. I thought it would work metaphorically and visually for the film and that’s why I chose it,” Forster said. “I chose it because it’s very special. You don’t find it anywhere else in the world.” Another reason for selecting the Lake Stage was because it was already hosting a production of Puccini’s dark love story and, as Forster revealed, “Tosca has a parallel to the story I’m telling.”
The opera sequences features 007 in investigative mode, a throwback to Sean Connery’s detective-like Bond seen in Dr. No and From Russia With Love. Forster certainly had the classic Bond films in mind when he forged his vision for Quantum of Solace. “What I loved about the Bond films, the early Connery ones, the Terence Young-directed ones, was that the set designs gave me a feel that was so interesting and beautiful,” the director recalled. “They were just slightly ahead in their style and design, and I felt that it was time to bring that back a bit. I thought Casino Royale was a good movie, but stylistically a lot could have been improved. The locations [in Quantum] speak for themselves, such as in Chile or like this place. Locations are characters themselves. Like what [early Bond production designer] Ken Adam did. That’s why I hired Dennis Gassner, who I think is a brilliant [production] designer.”
This old school stylistic sensibility also extends to the film’s action sequences. Forster recently shot a boat chase in Panama involving 007 and female lead Camille (Olga Kurylenko) that is clearly reminiscent of the climactic boat battle in From Russia With Love. There is also an aerial action scene that Forster hopes conjures memories of the Master of Suspense. “The plane in the cat-and-mouse sequence I chose is a DC-3. That reminded me of Hitchcock, that era.”
Forster’s visceral approach to the material and locations has met with approval from his leading man, Daniel Craig. “I think we have to set up this heightened world and the heightened world is one where you can get off planes and sit in foreign resorts. When I was a child watching Bond movies, that was one of the biggest deals for me. ‘Where are we going now?,'” Craig recalled during a roundtable interview. “We’ve gone away on this more than they’ve gone away before [on past Bond films]. We’ve spent two months in Central America, now here [in Austria] with a full opera going halfway through a movie. It’s a great experience to do apart from everything else but it should look cinematically wonderful.”
The movie’s hero isn’t the only one impressed with the style and scale of Forster’s Quantum of Solace. The villains are, too. “I’ve been on big sets, big productions but this is really a whole empire,” Taubman said. “It’s a world brand so you do feel that. You also feel the pressure that something big’s going to come out of this. Big anticipation. Casino Royale set new trends within that format. I’m sure Marc Forster, who is amazing, will manifest that whole new dynamic, that whole new realism that Casino Royale so beautifully started.”
Quantum of Solace opens November 7.