Brigitte Bardot and the Beatles: What is ‘Serpent’ made of?


Yes, Charles Sobhraj and Marie-Andre Lecler were dangerous psychopaths. In the 1970s, the sober French killed backpacking hippies in Thailand and Nepal, while his Quebecise partner helped draw potential victims into his trap.

But the couple also had an eccentric sex appeal – which helped them woo those victims.

His real-life odyssey is the subject of Netflix and the BBC series “Snake”, Where she is portrayed in equal parts as glamorous and horrifically immoral by Taher Rahim and Jenna Coleman. Charles and Marie-Andrée stand exactly opposite Herman Nippenberg (Billy Howell), an honest Dutch diplomat on their trail.

Much of the show’s appeal derives from its sexy, decadent 1970s vibe. “While we were telling a true crime story, I never felt that it should be in a kind of documentary style,” said executive producer Tom Shankland, who also directed the first four episodes (he did the 2019 mini- Also directed the series) “Les Miserables”)

In an email and a video call from Buckinghamshire, England, 52-year-old Shankland discussed some of the aesthetic inspirations behind it “Snake.”

“I think there are moments where you want to let go of the strict rules of space and time and make a third thing, a strange, terrible vortex into something terrible,” Shankland said. His favorite filmmaker is Nicholas Roeg, an expert in this type of brainwashing. “With him it’s never just a script, it’s never just acting – it’s always about the weird effect of editing, the interesting shot choices he makes,” Shankland said. “I like that the location and texture of a place becomes either a visual metaphor or a way to bring out an emotional subtext.”

Roegh’s influence can also be felt in the nonlinear narrative of “The Serpent”, which is constantly moving back and forth. “I liked his timeline montages in ‘Don’t Look Now’ and a little out-of-control editing in ‘Bad Timing’,” said Shankland. “I’m sure some of this was on my mind when we were shooting and cutting scenes like the brutal murders in the Kathmandu Valley in Episode 4.”

While Shankland referred to Barbet Schroeder’s 1969 film “More”, about a couple who landed on Ibiza in a drug hell, even more influential on the Western “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” (1971) series, revised by Robert Altman. Was. Shankland said, “The way his camera is always interested in details other than plot, I like: the icy landscape, he wears the amazing furry coat Warren Beatty, the extras talking about shaving, dancing on ice Boy. “

The show also nods at a particular scene in the film. “Warren Beatty sat at a table in the salon, handing out cards,” Shankland said. “The zoom lens leans a little closer and he smiles a killer smile. I think I inadvertently shot the exact shot in episode two of a scene selling Tahr’s gems – Charles Sobhraj’s seeded glamor, before Cobra bites “Tight, charming smile.”

The French director Olivier Assay’s magnum opus of the 1970s terrorist Carlos the Jackal greatly influenced Shankland. “I always loved the low-key, authentic ’70s design of’ Carlos’,” he said, adding that he wanted the series to have a similar visual accuracy: “It had to feel at a level that was a The location looked like., What an apartment looked like, what a street looked like – and ‘Carlos’ is beautifully designed from that point of view. “

To Shankland’s delight, François-Renaud Laberthe, a “Carlos” production designer, joined the “Serpent” team. “When we had to shut down because of Kovid, we were lucky to have a very meticulous French designer who managed to create pieces of Karachi, bits of Paris, outside of London called Tring,” said Shankland.

For Coleman, whose dress has acquired a cult following, Shankland drew inspiration from the 1970s style of actresses such as Brigitte Bardot, Jacqueline Bisset, and Dominic Sanda.

He said referring to the couple’s apartment complex in Bangkok, “There is something ‘pigmallion’ about Marie-André’s journey from the province of Quebec to the ‘Queen of Connaught House'”. “Her small-town dreams of Parisian sophistication made me think of the Bardot of the ’70s – there is a great picture of her on a peacock chair, very’ Emmanuelle ‘, but she looks really strong, Like she’s a queen. “

In order to appear charmingly enigmatic for many of Marie-Andre’s scenes while smoking, Shankland recalled a Bernardo Bertolucci film released in the 1970s, but in the 1930s and early 40s: “I’m often ‘The Conformist’ I used to go to Dominic Sanda’s, “said Shankland,” the shots where she comes to the door and looks great with cigarettes. “

Shankland explained that a montage of the killers rejoicing in their evil deeds and in the fourth episode Nippenberg tried to convince the police to investigate, shot and edited to work with “Jump into the fire” By Harry Nilsson. “I was fully hoping that we would get the rights and gamble that the people with the checkbook might fall in love with it,” he said.

While “music is in the show’s DNA,” as Shankland puts it, a song that doesn’t appear: The Beatles’ “tomorrow Never Knows,” Since 1966.

“I heard it every day for maybe a year and a half,” he said. “There is something about the interaction between Indian instrumentation and Western pop music that was perfect for this phenomenon of children in the West thinking the answers were over there. It’s also one of those songs that you Sometimes it takes on a good journey, sometimes on a bad journey, but you have to surrender for it. ”



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