Maria Djurkovic interview: ‘My Policeman’ production designer
For Academy and BAFTA Award-nominated production designer Maria Djurkovic, the best part of any film is discovering its visual language — its look, mood, atmosphere, color palette and sensibility. But what is important to her is that this language arises from the material itself. That was certainly the case with her latest effort, “My Policeman,” whose script she was sent during the first COVID-19 lockdown and whose attitude immediately leapt off the page.
“For me, that initial response about mood and atmosphere is absolutely crucial, [it] doesn’t matter what the project is… One of the ways that I know if I should be doing a particular film or not is whether I do see pictures immediately,” reveals Djurkovic during her recent webchat with Gold Derby (watch the exclusive video interview above). “I absolutely did [with ‘My Policeman’] — it had a very strong atmosphere and a very evocative mood.”
Based on Bethan Roberts’ 2012 novel of the same name, “My Policeman” carves a visually transporting, heart-stopping portrait of forbidden love and changing social conventions through the eyes of three people caught up in the shifting tides of history, liberty and forgiveness. Directed by Michael Grandage, it tells the story of closeted gay policeman Tom (Harry Styles), who falls in love with museum curator Patrick (David Dawson) in 1950s Brighton. Bound by the legalities of the time, which prohibit the two men from displaying their affection for each other in public, they meet in secret, and Tom eventually marries schoolteacher Marion (Emma Corrin). In the 1990s, in the English seaside town of Peacehaven, Tom (Linus Roache), Marion (Gina McKee) and Patrick (Rupert Everett) are still reeling with longing and regret, but have one last chance to repair the damage of the past.
Given this story’s main subject matter, it is perhaps no surprise that the film boasts a rather melancholic color palette — one that is dominated by different shades of green, blue, white and brown. When asked how she came up with the idea for said palette, Djurkovic divulges that it is derived from not only the script itself but also the actual locations that are depicted in the film.
“Brighton and Peacehaven have very specific looks — basically, you’ve got sea and you’ve got sky. You also have, in Brighton, this very particular color palette that most of the stucco buildings all along the seafront [boast], a sort of ivory, and then there’s this very strong turquoise color on all the cast iron railings that are everywhere,” explains the production designer, maintaining that Peacehaven, in comparison, is overall much more depressing. “The ’50s stuff is sexy and fun, and it has a visual vivacity to it, whereas the ’90s world was actually really quite depressing. And the bungalows that are built on that coastline [in Peacehaven] are quite depressing. So, to try to sort of bring them a little bit to life — that, if anything, was the most challenging part.”
When it comes to the inside of Patrick’s ’50s apartment — one of the film’s most important set pieces since it’s the place in which Tom and Patrick secretly meet throughout the movie — Djurkovic highlights that she wanted the museum curator’s character to shine through in its decor.
“You’re saying a lot about this particular character: He’s cultured, he’s worldly, he has a good eye… he draws, he paints,” says the Oscar nominee, underlining that Patrick’s drawings in particular communicate a great deal about his personality. “We gave him quite an eclectic art collection, we gave him quite an eclectic decor, in fact. And it was sort of important to make it feel like, when Tom goes to see Patrick, [when] he enters his apartment for the first time, he really is entering into a world that he’s very, very unfamiliar with. It’s everything that he doesn’t know — there’s something seductive about it.”
“My Policeman” is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.