In Isabel Coixet’s The Secret Life of Words, a burn victim (Tim Robbins) upon an oil rig forms a special bond with his nurse (Sarah Polley) despite his temporary blindness and immobility.

We spoke with Isabel about her latest film.

What served as your inspiration to make this film? ^ I did a documentary on an oilrig in the south of Chile. I was completely fascinated by the place, by the isolation, by the atmosphere… and years after I found a story that makes perfect sense in the middle of the sea.

Did you need to do any research on burn victims? ^ Yes, we had the help of a group of doctors specialized in severe burns. They were really amazed by the things you can do with make up. Tim (Robbins) had four hours of make up every day. Thanks God for the ipod!!

How did you assemble your cast? ^ I wrote Hanna`s role for Sarah Polley because we worked together on my previous film (“My Life Without Me”) and we really connect on a very deep level and I promised her I’d write something for her someday (and she can make me laugh even in the worse circumstances!!).

I sent the script to Tim Robbins because I always admired him, and the role needed an actor with a really strong personality able to mesmerize the audience even with his eyes closed and his face severely burned. I couldn’t believe it when one week later he said “Yes”. Sarah and Tim have an incredible chemistry on the screen. It was an amazing experience working with these two guys.

What were some challenges in getting this film made? ^ The challenge was to find a real oilrig where they would let us shoot. It is a very tricky location (always slippery and cold and wet and isolated ) and sometimes I cursed the day I had the idea to make a movie on an oil rig, but in the end I think the oil rig is another actor in the movie and it makes perfect sense.

What would you like this film to do for its audience? ^ I want to take them to the middle of the sea, make them feel the cold, the taste of the salt in the mouth. I want to make them share the intimacy between two wounded people and make them think about how it is possible to survive a terrible past. I want to give the audience some kind of hope.

Beyond your Sundance premiere, where might audiences be able to see “The Secret Life of Words”? ^ I believe the film is going to be shown everywhere!

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