Lockout: A futuristic thriller that refuses to take itself seriously

Lockout: A futuristic thriller that refuses to take itself seriously

Starring Guy Pearce (Memento, Prometheus) and Maggie Grace (Taken, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn) and set in the near future, Lockout follows a falsely convicted ex-government agent (Pearce), whose one chance at obtaining freedom lies in the dangerous mission of rescuing the President’s daughter (Grace) from rioting convicts at an outer space maximum-security prison. Lockout was directed by Stephen St. Leger and James Mather from their script, co-written with Luc Besson, who is also a producer. Peter Stormare co-stars.

James Mather and Stephen St. Leger met at film school in Dublin and started working as a team. In the last twenty years, they have shot numerous commercials and shorts. “Generally, James is behind the camera and I direct,” says Stephen St Leger. Producer Marc Libert explains, “James is responsible for the photography and lighting while Steve takes care of the writing and editing.” The directorial duo soon became experts in use of the green screen, obtaining spectacular results for their short films.

It was their 15-minute short, PREY ALONE, which convinced EuropaCorp. “We were all very impressed,” says Libert. “It shows a fighter plane chasing a car into a tunnel. It’s astonishing that they shot it on a shoestring budget of 60,000 euros from the Irish government.” Producer Leila Smith adds, “after we saw it, we showed a DVD to Luc, who insisted on meeting the directors.” “I’m a fan of lots of Luc’s films, such as LE GRAND BLEU and SUBWAY, says St. Leger. “And there are several shots in PREY ALONE that are close to THE PROFESSIONAL. Maybe Luc was receptive to the themes of our short or the fact that we oversaw all the special effects ourselves.” The M.S. ONE adventure could begin.

Lockout: A futuristic thriller that refuses to take itself seriously

When Stephen St. Leger and James Mather met Luc Besson, they had already written two features and wanted to direct a wisecracking action movie. The maker of THE FIFTH ELEMENT had the perfect project for them: 500 of the world’s most dangerous criminals are locked up in a prison in space and maintained in a state of stasis. “Suddenly, the inmates wake up,” recounts Leila Smith. “Rioting breaks out in the prison and a guy is sent up there to restore order.”

The two Irish directors enthusiastically accepted EuropaCorp’s proposal and met regularly with Luc Besson to work on the script. “The two boys met with Luc for 2-3 hours at a time to put together the structure of the movie with the main narrative blocks and the elements of plot that needed to be integrated,” comments Marc Libert. “Back in Ireland, St. Leger and Mather wrote the dialogue, even taking liberties with the structure to express their style. After the first draft, the second took us another four-five months. Luc’s reaction to it was very positive.”

Leila Smith in particular appreciated the close collaboration between EuropaCorp and the two directors, whose willingness to communicate she emphasizes: “There were no great debates between Luc and the guys. Their script meetings functioned a bit like a master class. Luc gave them explanations about various scenes and advised them not to develop others because he sensed they’d be cut in editing.” Luc Besson’s directorial experience proved crucial. Leila Smith adds, “When the directors disagreed with Luc, he just said to them, ‘Convince me.’ They defended the choices they had made and the coherence of the development of characters they really cared about. Most often, Luc was happy to be convinced.”

While LOCKOUT is first and foremost a futuristic thriller, the film has its comic moments. It’s a difficult balance to achieve, as Stephen St. Leger explains, because comedy is a very subjective genre, “Everybody has their own conception of humor. A scene that’s meant to be funny has a good chance of falling flat on its face. For me, the master is Billy Wilder- deadpan humor that never becomes heavy-handed or a gag for the sake of a gag. You sense that he’s never trying to be funny at all costs. We tried to take a leaf out of his book.” Similarly, the director is happy to accept the movie’s 1980s dimension: I love the DIE HARD series or ROMANCING THE STONE and it shows in the humor in this film.”

For the two directors, the characters were a central preoccupation. They didn’t make things easy for themselves by making the hero so cynical and dispassionate that he can be hard to like at first. But he is very funny with a great line in deadpan humor. “He reminds me of the characters played by William Holden in Billy Wilder’s movies,” agrees Stephen St. Leger. “A sarcastic guy with a scathing sense of humor. The relationship between Emilie and Snow brings to mind Bogart and Hepburn in AFRICAN QUEEN. In other words, two polar opposites who are forced to get along.”

At first, Emilie seems like a naïve, privileged young woman who may be concerned about other people but has actually had to stand up for them. The directors ensured that she evolved in the course of the movie. “Gradually, she becomes her own woman and shows real strength of character,” comments Stephen St. Leger. Leila Smith adds, “being around Snow changes her, even physically. Her way of speaking changes, she loses her prejudices and becomes spunkier.” The directors also made sure Snow’s appreciation of her developed. “While Snow thinks that most people are weak and can’t defend themselves,” explains Stephen St. Leger, “he realizes that Emilie is not like them when she fights back and refuses to cut him loose.”

Related Link: Lockout Movie Full Production Notes

Inarritu and the The Look of Babel

Inarritu and the The Look of Babel

In a departure from his previous films, González Iñárritu sought to combine in Babel the hyper-realism esthetics of certain scenes, with dream-like sequences in the purest cinematic tradición that show the inner lives of the characters.

Key to achieving this was Oscar-nominated cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto’s mastering of visual narratives: “We wanted to visually represent the emotional journeys of the characters through the use of different film stocks and formats. We felt that subtle differences between the image quality of each story, like the texture of the film grain, the color saturation, and the sharpness of the backgrounds could help enhance the experience of being in different places geographically and emotionally,” says Prieto. “We then digitally combined the different lens formats used into one negative, in the same way that all these cultures and languages come together in one film.”

The almost documentary style becomes a challenge in itself when the production requirements happen to be so high as they were in BABEL. While the deserts in South Morocco and Mexico lacked the essential technological support, a hyper-modern city such as Tokyo was for the opposite reasons full of obstacles faced by the production departments.

“It was one of the toughest experiences of my life, though one of the most unforgettable and gratifying,” says Academy Award-winning production designer Brigitte Broch. “From working in the most amazing landscapes in Morocco to watching the strangest mixture of society in Tokyo, this film has shaped me in my better understanding of mankind. We decided to paint the film by country in the red tones; the orange earth tones for Morocco, the electric vivid red for Mexico and more toward the subtle red-purple for Japan,” says Broch.

Inarritu and the The Look of Babel

For director González Iñárritu, the true achievement consists of making his and his art and photography departments’ efforts invisible to audiences without showing off. This effort was also implied in the self-imposed task of not succumbing to the esthetical temptations offered by places as visually attractive as the cities portrayed.

Efforts of this kind were also put in the editing room. “I love working with Alejandro because he is relentless,” says editor Stephen Mirrione. Oscar winner. “He’s not satisfied unless every frame in the film makes you feel something. In editing BABEL that meant being focused microscopically on every detail within each scene. Over 2,500 distinct camera setups were shot, giving us an overwhelming palette of images and sounds to choose from. There are roughly 4,000 cuts in the film, so like assembling a massive mosaic from tiny intricately designed tiles, the work we all accomplished only became clear to me after stepping back and watching with a little distance. I am still discovering new details, new connections, and new layers of meaning with every viewing.”

Martin Hernandez, a close friend of Iñarritu’s, began collaborating with him 22 years ago when they were working for a radio station in Mexico City. “When there’s nothing to listen to, there’s nothing to understand; if we stop understanding, then our language has become useless, even worse, in the end it will only divide us. Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu´s BABEL is a very detailed description on this subject at the only level that becomes truly universal: the human level. It is filled with some very subtle and some very strident characters, all of them powerfully visual and sonorous. When I was on location for BABEL trying to record the sounds in every space captured for the film, I thought I was there to hear. I was wrong. Now that I’m here, in front of Alejandro’s last cut, I am really listening. I’ve learned to listen to what he hears, and now I’ve been able to understand him. This movie expects the same attention as any human being demands, it is more about them, about the `other’, about the apparent stranger, hence in the end, it’s all about ourselves,” says Hernandez.

Adding the final touches of feeling and depth to the film is another long-time partner of Iñárritu’s – composer Gustavo Santaolalla, who most recently wrote the Oscar-winning score for Brokeback Mountain. “BABEL was the third motion picture I had the chance of working with Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu on. Since “Amores Perros” and through “21 Grams” we’ve been developing a particular musical language that helps us to connect with the humanistic, visceral and heartfelt essence of his movies. The challenge with “Babel” is the four stories that take place in three very different parts of the world was to find a sound, a leading instrument that would connect all the characters and places, keeping an identity but not sounding like the music of a National Geographic documentary. That voice I found in an instrument called the oud, an Arab fretless instrument, ancestor of the Spanish guitar that also echoes the Japanese koto. That sound in combination with other instruments is what created the sonic fabric of Babel,” says Santaolalla.

The crew of top rate collaborators conformed by Prieto, Broch and Santaolalla, along with sound designer Martín Hernández, have been integral members of González Iñárritu team since Amores Perros, his successful debut film. The artistic bond already established between them made the BABEL experience even more intimate and transforming. They comprise what he calls his “creative close family,” essential in the process of translating a vital experience to a language as universal as film.

“Over the course of the year, we lived around the world like a big circus of gypsies. Even when a film can be a close and personal testimony of oneself, making a film is a huge collaborative process. It’s a creative orgy in which everybody gives the best of their talents and I owe to all of my team and collaborators, the best and most satisfying moments, both in the film and out of it. Without them, it would have been impossible to conceive even an inch of film.,” says the director.

For this project, Iñárritu also invited producers Jon Kilik and Steve Golin to complete his “team” of collaborators. “It was great to be able to rely on the family that had been with me during the past two films, but it was also amazing to have worked with new friends and partners, Jon Kilik and Steve Golin. We went through a lot over the course of the film, but their spirit, experience and support was indispensable for this project,” says Iñárritu.

From the point of view of a producer, BABEL posed numerous challenges, but the biggest goal of all was to maintain the creative integrity of the film. “BABEL became the most demanding and the most rewarding producing challenge of my career,” said producer Jon Kilik (Alexander, Malcolm X, Dead Man Walking). “Remote deserts, highly secured international borders, and one of the most densely populated cities on the planet made for enormous production challenges while embracing the lifestyle and work style of Morocco, Mexico and Japan resulted in an honesty on the screen that I am extremely proud of.”

Producer Steve Golin (Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich) shared a similar experience. “This was my first collaboration with Alejandro and the experience of working on BABEL was not only memorable, but unlike any other film I have been a part of. Each day provided me an opportunity to witness people’s methodologies of filmmaking within an international setting and I was continually challenged and inspired as a producer. Having to overcome the obstacles and boundaries of language to find a way of working with one another helped to make this journey truly unique.

Related Link: Full Production Notes for Babel Movie

The Dreamers: A personal chord for both Bertolucci

The Dreamers: A personal chord for both Bertolucci

Left alone in Paris whilst their parents are on holiday, Isabelle (Eva Green) and her brother Theo (Louis Garrel) invite Matthew (Michael Pitt), a young American student, to stay at their apartment. Here they make their own rules as they experiment with their emotions and sexuality while playing a series of increasingly demanding mind games.

Set against the turbulent political backdrop of France in the spring of 1968 when the voice of youth was reverberating around Europe, “The Dreamers” is a story of self-discovery as the three students test each other to see just how far they will go.

The Dreamers was helmed by Bernardo Bertolucci, whose film The Last Emperor swept the 1987 Academy Awards garnering nine Oscars including Best Director and Best Picture. It marks his third film shot in Paris, following The Conformists and the Oscar-nominated Last Tango in Paris. The screenplay, adapted for the screen from his original novel, is by English author and film critic Gilbert Adair.

The Dreamers strikes a personal chord for both Bertolucci and Adair, for although their paths never crossed, they were both living in Paris at the end of the 60s, experiencing the events against which the film is set. Their love of cinema took them to the birthplace of the Nouvelle Vague (New Wave), immersing them in a strong international cinema culture. “There was something magic in the 60s,” Bertolucci recalls, “in that we were … well, let’s use the word ‘dreaming’. We were fusing cinema, politics, music, jazz, rock ‘n roll, sex, philosophy.”

The film stars Michael Pitt, recently seen in the award-winning Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and with Sandra Bullock in Murder by Numbers, Eva Green in her feature film debut, and Louis Garrel, who previously appeared in Yolande Zauberman’s La Guerre in Paris.

The Dreamers

Directed by: Bernardo Bertolucci
Starring: Michael Pitt, Louis Garrel, Eva Green, Jean-Pierre Kalfon, Jean-Pierre Leaud, Anna Chancellor, Robin Renucci, Valentin Merlet, Lola Peploe
Screenplay by: Gilbert Adair
Production Design by: Jean Rabasse
Cinematography by: Fabio Cianchetti
Film Editing by: Jacopo Quadri
Costume Design by: Louise Stjernsward
Art Direction by: Pierre Duboisberranger
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content and graphic nudity, language, drug use.
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release Date: February 6, 2004

Raleted Link: Read Full Production Notes for The Dreamers Movie

Aishwarya’s Guzaarish to release in Latin America

Aishwarya's Guzaarish to release in Latin America

UTV Motion Pictures will be releasing Guzaarish in Peru (Latin America) in February 2012. Continuing its endeavour to open new international markets for Indian Cinema, UTV Motion Pictures is one of the first studios to enter Latin America.

UTV is also releasing the Spanish trailer of UTV Motion Pictures and Dharma Productions Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu in Peru. The film directed by Shakun Batra has Imran Khan and Kareena Kapoor as the lead pair and is produced by Ronnie Screwvala and Karan Johar.

Amrita Pandey, Senior Vice President, International Distribution and Syndication of UTV Motion Pictures says, ‘Latin America is a new market and we are focusing to make the best out of the region. We’re looking forward to the Guzaarish release in Peru. There have been enquiries on Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu from the region. We hope the Spanish trailers for Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu will pave a way for day and date releases of new movies in the near future.’

Amrita continues, ”Guzaarish is widely picked up by non-traditional international markets besides the traditional ones. The film has been loved by audiences across the world and newer markets are showing keen interest in the film. Because of its cinematic value, even after a year of its release, the response from new audiences is heartening. We are also talking to a leading European distributor to have GUZAARISH released in France. This will be a first-time ever Bollywood acquisition from France.”

Directed by veteran director- producer Sanjay Leela Bhansali and co-produced by SLB Pictures and UTV Motion Pictures, Guzaarish, which released on November 19, 2010, was hugely appreciated by critics from across the world. The film known for its grandeur look, brilliant acting and the chartbusting soulful music, received fantastic response from audiences worldwide. Starring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Hrithik Roshan and Aditya Roy Kapur in the critically acclaimed lead roles, Sanjay Bhansali himself, made a debut as a music director with this film.

Guzaarish won multiple awards at various leading award ceremonies in 2010-2011 across categories including a couple of them for its astounding cinematography as well as the enchanting music.

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John Le Carre and Spy Masters

John Le Carre and Spy Masters

The time is 1973. The Cold War of the mid-20th Century continues to damage international relations. Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), a.k.a. MI6 and code-named the Circus, is striving to keep pace with other countries’ espionage efforts and to keep the U.K. secure. The head of the Circus, known as Control (John Hurt), personally sends dedicated operative Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) into Hungary. But Jim’s mission goes bloodily awry, and Control is forced out of the Circus – as is his top lieutenant, George Smiley (Gary Oldman), a career spy with razor-sharp senses.

Estranged from his absent wife Ann, Smiley is soon called in to see undersecretary Oliver Lacon (Simon McBurney); he is to be rehired in secret at the government’s behest, as there is a gnawing fear that the Circus has long been compromised by a double agent, or mole, working for the Soviets and jeopardizing England. Supported by younger agent Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch), Smiley parses Circus activities past and present. In trying to track and identify the mole, Smiley is haunted by his decades-earlier interaction with the shadowy Russian spy master Karla.

The mole’s trail remains cold until maverick field agent Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) unexpectedly contacts Lacon. While undercover in Turkey, Ricki has fallen for a betrayed married woman, Irina (Svetlana Khodchenkova), who claims to possess crucial intelligence. Separately, Smiley learns that Control narrowed down the list of mole suspects to five men. They are the ambitious Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), whom he had code-named Tinker; suavely confident Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), dubbed Tailor; stalwart Roy Bland (Ciarán Hinds), called Soldier; officious Toby Esterhase (David Dencik), dubbed Poor Man; and – Smiley himself.

While considering directors for the movie, Tim Bevan fielded a phone call from Tomas Alfredson, the Swedish filmmaker who had caught the world film community’s attention with his striking and empathetic feature Let the Right One In. Alfredson had heard that Working Title would be making Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and so he initiated contact. A meeting was arranged. Bevan remembers, “I was expecting some trendy young Swede to come through the door. But this very big man, about my age, came in and he was quite quiet.

“I asked for his take on the material. He said, ‘Well, I think that all of the musclebound guys, they go and they join the army. And the nerds, they are the spies.’ I thought, ‘Now, there’s an angle…’”

Robyn Slovo notes, “Here is a group of men who, on the one hand, are united in their place of work, and on the other are all separate individuals who harbor separate secrets – and are all looking and watching each other. We’re spying on a spy world. This would naturally appeal to a very visually-driven director, but there would have to be a feel for the story as well.”

Bevan adds, “We were looking for a directorial vision from a confident filmmaker to firmly guide the audience through the narrative of this complex story. Tomas was a bit of an unlikely candidate, but le Carré saw Let the Right One In and said, ‘Go with him.’

“The thing about period films is that the only thing ‘period’ about them should be the look. This allows for the viewer to have more of an emotional response. The director must create a world to journey through with the audience. These approaches characterized Tomas’ work on Let the Right One In, and now would again on Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.”

Slovo notes, “Tomas is Swedish and this is an English story, so that brings an objective perspective; we don’t go down the path of the overly familiar take.”

Certainly for le Carré, who had worked with Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles on the successful film version of The Constant Gardener, having a foreign filmmaker at the helm was a plus. The author says, “As on The Constant Gardener, I thought that what we would lose in parochial Englishness we would gain in internationalism and universality. Many of the structures of British society are replicated all over the world. I think Tomas as a filmmaker brings amazing originality, and very strong onscreen ‘handwriting.’”

Alfredson remembered the 1979 miniseries, which he had watched growing up in Sweden. He recalls, “When it aired, streets were empty; everybody was watching it. The story concerned something going on that was involving and affecting the whole world, but it had nothing of the 007 style about it — it was quite different from that, almost everyday, which made it extremely interesting.”

The director’s subsequent research into the era only intrigued him all the more. He elaborates, “What many people don’t now realize is that, as a spy, you did your assignment and that was all you knew. It could be, working in a shop in Vienna for a year and writing down who goes in and who goes out of a door on the other side of the street; to do that, you would have had to learn German for months prior.

“Then you would get back and never know what it meant, but you had served your country. All you could say to family and friends was that you had been on a business trip. If you’re in such an existence too long, you can fall prey to lies and paranoia. What does it do to your morale?”

The director concedes that because le Carré’s novel “is such a cornerstone of British literature”, he did feel some pressure in taking on the assignment. “It’s scary to handle material of this magnitude,” he admits.

“But you have to put that aside. If you are daring to do the job, you need to have strong connections to the material. I suppose I understand George Smiley’s soul in some way. When I first met John le Carré, there was a very strong personal connection. It felt like I understood what he was expecting from a film, and I was very surprised that was so generous and open. Not only in terms of sharing information and details with us for hours at a time, but also in terms of how he said, ‘Make interesting reflections of yourself.’ So I set out to try to make the images I saw in the book, and the humanity of the characters, come to the screen.”

After Peter Morgan had written a draft, Bevan found that the screenwriter “wasn’t available to keep going with the script, so we went to the team of Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan to write the screenplay adaptation. They worked very closely with Tomas for almost a year.”

Le Carré offers, “When I read Bridget and Peter’s first draft, it was a piece of dramatic and intellectual architecture that I could admire. I knew I couldn’t do something like that. At that point, I joined their work. It was not the film of the book; it was the film of the film. I think they did it splendidly.

“The greatest compliment all of the filmmakers paid to the book, as far as I’m concerned, was to make their own film from it. I was there as a resource, that’s all; I knew the material very well, and I offered what mental agility I have.”

“Their first draft was so promising,” remembers Slovo. “It helped make the development process very quick, and we started casting the movie by the time there was a third draft.”

Staying faithful to the period when it was written and published, the feature unfolds primarily in 1973 (progressing into 1974). Bevan adds, “The team’s script represented the book, retained the complications of the book, and had integrity at its heart. As a producer, you’re always looking for a compelling story, compelling emotion, and compelling characters. Their script had those elements, and it is very much their script that was shot.”

The script was now in the hands of a director making his first English-language film. Alfredson muses, “I’m unpredictable with my career moves; something comes up and I’ll feel, ‘This is the right thing to do next.’

“This picture is certainly a big step for me. I’ve been doing films and television for almost 30 years, so it was a big change to work in a different language. But everyone was so helpful.”

Particularly so, he says, were the eyes and ears of the female half of the screenwriting team, Bridget O’Connor, who passed away just as filming began and to whom the finished film is dedicated. Alfredson reflects, “Since I wasn’t interested in doing it like the usual thriller, talking with Bridget about her interpretation and having her female eye on it was important. These men had to make use of their feminine sides and abilities. I needed that different perspective, and she helped me get it.”

In his research, Alfredson was fascinated to learn that “there was a lot of homosexuality in this world. At that time in Britain, it was not accepted, and there were spies and agents who could not be open about their sexuality because they could then be blackmailed. So Bridget and Peter were able to delve into this in the adaptation.”

To the director, the story particularly resonates and reverberates with “eternal and dramatic questions of friendship, betrayal, and loyalty.

“Also, as we’ve now reached a little distance from the Cold War era, we can look at what happened; were the bad guys truly the bad guys? We should know about our shared history, especially this piece that still echoes today.”

Alfredson muses, “There’s also the factor of, ‘I know something that you don’t know.’ Say that, or hint that, to someone, and you’ve got their attention and are getting into their head.”

Related Link: Read the Full Production Notes for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Melancholia interview with Lars von Trier

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Journalist Nils Thorsen, author of last year’s The Genius – Lars von Trier’s Life, Films and Phobias, has spoken with the director in March, while Lars von Trier was putting the last touches on Melancholia.

Let us get it over with right away. The end of Lars von Trier’s film Melancholia. Everybody dies. Not just the guests at the grand wedding held in the first part of the film at an ever-so-romantic castle surrounded by a golf course. And not just all life on Earth. For in the world evoked by the Danish film maker this time, we are absolutely alone in the universe. So what ends in our planet’s cosmic embrace with the ten times bigger planet, Melancholia, is life as such and our recollection of it. No ending could be more final. And, as Trier remarks with a black humor germane to him: “In a way, the film does have a happy ending.”

It is no coincidence that we begin at the end with a sunny day in spring, when everything seems to start all over again in lush green, and I visit the director in his mix of an office and a living room on the outskirts of the Film Town in Avedøre near Copenhagen. Indeed the ending was what was in place from the outset when he started to work on the idea of Melancholia, just as he immediately knew that the audience needed to know it from the first images of the film.

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“It was the same thing with ‘Titanic,” he says as he assumes his favorite interview pose, lying on the faded green cushions on his exuberant couch, arms flung over his head. “When they board the ship, you just know: aw, something with an iceberg will probably turn up. And it is my thesis that most films are like that, really.

In a James Bond movie we expect the hero to survive. It can get exciting nonetheless. And some things may be thrilling precisely because we know what’s going to happen, but not how they will happen. In Melancholia it’s interesting to see how the characters we follow react as the planet approaches Earth.”

The Germ of Melancholia

We follow two sisters till the bitter end. Justine, played by Kirsten Dunst. A melancholic by the grace of God, she has a hard time finding her place in the world and assuming all its empty rituals, but feels more at home when the world draws near its end. And then her sensible big sister Claire, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, who thrives in the world and consequently finds it hard to say goodbye to it.

“I think that Justine is very much me. She is based a lot on my person and my experiences with doomsday prophecies and depression. Whereas Claire is meant to be a … normal person,” laughs von Trier, who has been haunted by anxieties all through his life and believed that the Third World War was breaking out every time he heard an airplane as a boy.

The first time I called on Lars von Trier in connection with our book, he was looking for an idea for his next film. He sought inspiration at museums, listened to music and mentioned snippets of thoughts in bits and bobs, images and plot segments which I now find have reached the screen. But the film was not the main objective. The main objective was his emotional well-being.

Melancholia interview with Lars von Trier

The work consisted of scheduled walks and office hours with the aim of gradually pulling himself out of the depression that struck him some years earlier. For Lars von Trier is a melancholic incarnate. He drags himself through the times when he is not making films and could actually just enjoy life, but is at his best when the shit hits the fan and everything depends on him. Film crews and investors, actors, lines and plots. Not to mentions the cinematic language itself, which at best must be supplied with a few neologisms along the way while he is looking for some sore toes of culture, politics or ethics that he can step on, as he will do.

“My analyst told me that melancholiacs will usually be more level-headed than ordinary people in a disastrous situation, partly because they can say: ‘What did I tell you?” he laughs. “But also because they have nothing to lose. And that was the germ of Melancholia. From then on, things were speeding up. Less than a year later, the script was written, the actors found and the crew in the process of shooting.

On the edge of plastic

Throughout most of the year when I interviewed the director, his mood gradually improved as the work progressed. And as he is lying there on the couch in his black hooded sweatshirt and his grey beard, he seems even more cheerful.

“I had more fun making this film, and I’ve been far more present. But then again, I was going through a bad time during Antichrist.” he says.

In Melancholia he grapples with melancholia itself. More than cataclysms. But even though his take-off is his own depression, the idea developed during a conversation and a letter exchange with actress Penélope Cruz who wanted to make a film with him. She spoke of her fascination with the play ‘The Maids’ by the French dramatist Jean Genet, in which two maids kill their mistress.

“But I don’t do anything that’s not born by me, I said. So I tried to write something for her. The film is actually based on the two maids whom I turned into sisters in the film. Penélope can ride. So I used that, too.”

The title was inspired by his own depression. Later, presumably in a TV documentary, he saw that Saturn is the planet for melancholia, and, searching the internet, he suddenly came across a web page about cosmic collisions.

As in Antichrist, Melancholia opens with an overture ¬– a series of sequences and stills which, to the overture of ‘Tristan and Isolde’, partly shows Justine’s own visions of the wonderful end of the world, partly the most dramatic grand-scale images of the cosmic collision.

“I’ve always liked the idea of the overture. That you strike some themes. And, typically, we would have made an image of special effects of something we found would happen at such a collision, even though the plot itself just hints at the disaster in close ups. I thought it would be fun to take the images out of the context and begin with them instead, “he says and adds with a smile: “That gets rid of the aesthetic side in one full blow.”

What sort of aesthetics did you want in the film?

“I’d like a clash between what is romantic and grand and stylized and then some form of reality. The camera is handheld, for the most part. But the problem was that we had a magnificent castle in Sweden, and when you add a wedding with all the guests in gala and tux, it can hardly avoid becoming … beautiful, “ he smiles.

And that was not your intention?

“Well, it’s hard to smuggle in a bit of ugliness. So I think the film is slightly on the edge of plastic. Here and there. Would you please write that?”

The empty rituals of reality

After the initial doomsday ballet, the film falls in two parts. The first part is called ‘Justine’ and deals with the melancholic sister and her wedding. The other bears the title ‘Claire’ and covers the countdown to the end. As the director puts it: “If everything has to go to hell, it needs to start off well.”

The melancholy Justine is determined to become normal, he explains. So now she wants to get married. “She wants to end all the silliness and anxiety and doubt. That’s why she wants a real wedding. And everything goes well until she cannot meet her own demands. There is a recurring line: ‘Are you happy?’ She has to be. Otherwise, the wedding is silly. You must be happy now! And they all try to bring her ashore, but she doesn’t really want to be part of it.”

In the film she seems unable to engage in the situation. Isn’t she serious about it?

“She’s not serious about the wedding. In the start she is toying with it all in an off-hand manner, because she feels so on top of things that she can poke fun at it. But slowly, melancholia descends like a curtain between her and all the things she has set in motion. And when she gets to the wedding night, she simply can’t cope.”

She seems to be somewhere else than the others – where is she, mentally?

“If you ask me, she is longing for shipwrecks and sudden death, as Tom Kristensen wrote. And she gets it, too. In a way, she succeeds in pulling this planet from behind the sun and she surrenders to it.”

When you’re longing for shipwrecks and sudden death, it must be because it seems more real than this phony world?

“I think that’s true. She really suffers from doubts. And when she is at the wedding which she has imposed upon herself, she is seized by that doubt.”

Doubt about what?

“If it’s all worth it. A wedding, after all, is a ritual. But is there something beyond the ritual at all? There isn’t. Not to her. It’s a great shame that we melancholiacs don’t value rituals. I’m having a tough time at parties myself. Now we’ll all have fun, fun, fun. Perhaps because melancholiacs set the stakes higher than at just a few beers and some music. And there’s more of a party if we have colored festoons. It seems so phony. Rituals are, you know. But if rituals are worth nothing, that goes for everything, you know.”

That, I suppose, is the view of the melancholiac – that everything’s hollow?

“If there’s some value beyond the rituals, that’s fine. The ritual is like a film. There has to be something in the film. And then the film’s plot is the ritual that leads us to what’s inside. And if there’s something inside and beyond, I can relate to the ritual. But if the rituals are empty, that is: if it’s no longer fun to get Christmas presents or see the joy of the kids, then the whole ritual about dragging a tree inside the living room becomes empty.”

So, in a way that’s the eternal question of the melancholiac: is it all hollow?

“Is the emperor wearing any clothes at all? Is there a content? And there isn’t. And that’s what Justine sees every time she looks at that fucking wedding. He isn’t wearing anything. She has submitted to a ritual without a meaning.”

And the others don’t feel that?

“The others don’t mind, they just go around and feel that the ritual is nice.”

Longing for reality

The melancholic Justine isn’t just longing. She is longing for pathos and drama, Lars von Trier explains.

“She is longing for something of true value. And true values entail suffering. That’s the way we think. All in all, we tend to view melancholia as more true. We prefer music and art to contain a touch of melancholia. So melancholia in itself is a value. Unhappy and unrequited love is more romantic than happy love. For we don’t think that’s completely real, do we?”

But why does the melancholic long for shipwrecks and sudden death?

“Just because it’s true. Longing is true. It may be that there’s no truth at all to long for, but the longing itself is true. Just like pain is true. We feel it inside. It’s part of reality.”

How do you personally feel about the thought that the world might come to an end?

“If it could happen in an instant, the idea appeals to me. As Justine says: Life is evil, right? And life is a wicked idea. God may have had fun at creation, but he didn’t really think things through,” the director laughs. “So if the world ended and all the suffering and longing disappeared in a flash, I’m likely to press the button myself. If nobody would be in pain. Then people might say: how nasty, what about all the lives that wouldn’t be lived? But I can’t help seeing it all as a mean streak.”

What is there most of in life – misery or joy?

“Misery, dammit! Clearly. You may argue: Orgasm. Yes, that’s fine enough. But, orgasms, Ferraris and other pleasures. Yes, but with death and suffering at the other end of the scale, these weigh more, I think. And there’s much more suffering and pain than pleasure. And when you enjoy a spring day, that too is a kind of melancholy. The wedding is Justine’s last attempt to fight her way back into life instead of longing herself out of it. That’s why she wants to get married,” says von Trier. “She thinks: now I’m forcing my way through the rituals and some truth may issue from it. When you’re being cured of a depression, you’re forced to instigate some rituals as well. Take a five minute walk, for instance. And by going through the motions, the rituals will accumulate some meaning as well.”

According to the motto: Fake it till you make it?

“That’s what she’s trying to do. However, her longings are too great. Her hankering for truth is too colossal. I think that goes for melancholiacs in general. We have high demands on truth.”

Is longing the most prominent feature of melancholia?

“I think the words rhyme well. A melancholic longing must be as emotional as it can get. It evokes the image of wolves howling at the moon.”

What do the wolves howl, ‘come and get me?’

“Yes, for I must belong somewhere,” he laughs. “It’s also why Justine is howling at that planet: come and get me. And I’ll be damned if it doesn’t. And it devours her. And it was very poignant that it should not just be a collision between two planets, but that Melancholia should devour the Earth.”

Is that her longing: to be devoured?

“Yes,” he laughs. “So it is a happy end, after all.”

Alone in the Universe

Lars von Trier gets up, goes to his computer on the desk and starts searching the internet. “In the film, the sisters talk about being alone. And I believe I came upon that by listening to this number with Nephew, ‘Allein, Allein’” he says from his desk.

“And then I found it interesting if we actually are alone in space. In fact, it’s completely irrelevant. But it makes a big difference to me. One thing is that the Earth is cleared of all life, but if there are some cells somewhere, there’s something to build upon. If there’s no other life anywhere, well, that’s the end of that.”

So it’s not a proper shipwreck and sudden death if EVERYTHING doesn’t go?

“No, it has to be everything,” he smiles. “And I think it’s a scary and cold thought. When you see pictures from outer space, you shiver and feel that we’re awfully alone. And when you imagine yourself floating around in space, in a way you are alone.”

There’s an exclamation from behind the screen.

“Oh! They have a video with planets. I’ve never seen that,” he says. Then there is music. First a series of organ chords, then the rhythm, simple and mechanic. Some singing follows. And then the chorus: Allein, allein. “You can hardly imagine that there isn’t life any other place. But Justine knows it,” says the director as he resumes his place on the couch. “ And it could be interesting if someone came through that door and said: Listen: They’ve discovered that there is no life anywhere else. Whoops!”

In the second part of the film, the wedding is over and the planet is approaching Earth. And now it’s suddenly the big sister, Claire, who falls apart while Justine collects herself more and more. Claire’s husband, played by Kiefer Sutherland, is one of Lars von Trier’s stock characters: the rational man who studies things and believes he can explain it all. This time it’s why the planet will not hit Earth.

“He reassures his wife all through the film. And then suddenly, he stops. And then she is … allein, allein,” he smiles. “But then the sisters aren’t all that different from one another. They share the same crazy mother who’s given up on all the bullshit and turned completely bitter. She longs for nothing. So Claire has all the time had to be a mother to her little sister, and when you have to take care of others, you must be strong.”

Why does Claire fall apart as the planet approaches?

“She has something to lose. For instance, a child. She is not longing for anything. She appreciates what she is in. Whereas Justine has nothing to lose. She’s a melancholiac, and we are ever longing, you know. And when you’re longing, you can’t lose anything. You have nothing.”

So you are exposed when you appreciate what you have?

“Yes! And we melancholiacs skip lightly over all that. Perhaps it’s a way of surviving. Then you don’t have to mourn the things you lose,” he says and adds with a little laugh: “But on the whole, they are pretty unpleasant to one another. My characters are, you know. They all let each other down.”

I perceive the sisters’ relationship as very loving.

“Yes, in the end, for instance. I think they get together there. That is also what hints at a happy end. That the two opposites melt together. They have different reaction patterns, of course. But they have been two, and they become one.”

The last film in the world

Before the shooting started, Penélope Cruz cancelled because of other engagements and Kirsten Dunst got the lead instead. And the collaboration, says Lars von Trier, was a pleasant surprise.

“I think she’s one hell of an actress. She is much more nuanced than I thought and she has the advantage of having had a depression of her own. All sensible people have,” he says.
“She helped me a lot. First and foremost she had taken photos of herself in that situation so I could see how she looked. How she was present and smiling, but with a completely blank stare. She really pulls that off rather well.”

If you ask Trier what he thinks of the film, it is more difficult to get an answer. “When I see it, I feel good about it. But I’ve seen it so many times that I can’t see it anymore,” he says and hesitates for a moment or two. “Charlotte Gainsbourg said something that pleased me very much. It was: It’s a weird film,” he laughs. “That was lovely, because I was worried that ‘weird’ was somehow lacking a bit.”

What’s your doubt in this case?

“Well, I am afraid that it has turned out too ‘nice’. I like the romance in it. Pathos. But that’s alarmingly close to nice. I mean, exactly when are you indulging in romance with Wagner, and when is it just … turning trivial?”

It’s allowed to be indecently nice, I suppose?

“Yes! If there’s an idea about it. I had a wonderfully unpolished feeling with Antichrist. I don’t with ‘Melancholia’. All the time, I meant it to be polished in some way. And I hope people will find something beyond the polish, if they really look for it. It’s just harder to get down to than with ‘Antichrist’, because the surface is so polished.”

In Antichrist you couldn’t help falling through the cracks?

“That’s what I mean. You can skate across the polished surface in this film. The style is polished, but underneath the smooth surface, there’s content. And to get to that, you need to look beyond the polish. But the worst thing to happen was when they said at Nordisk Film: There are some beautiful images,” he laughs. “That destroyed me. For if I make a film that they like at Nordisk Film, I’ll stop tomorrow!”

Doesn’t it help to destroy the whole world?

“I hope so. The approaching planet does provide some fundamental suspense, at least. The suspense can hardly be greater than when we know that a planet ten times the size of Earth is drawing closer and that it will crash into us. I suppose that keeps the audience from leaving halfway through. And Thomas Vinterberg said something very sensible when he had seen it,” he says and continues through the laughter: “Which was: how do you make a film after this?”

The Nymphomaniac

In Lars von Trier’s case, the answer is simple. You get up in the morning, go for your walks, go to work and search the world for new flashes of interest to be unfolded in images that may even add to the cinematic vocabulary. It has the considerable side effect that the director can keep his melancholy somehow at bay. That is why his films come at short intervals these days, and a new idea is already taking shape in his mind, as far as I understand. Even though the unveiling comes jerk wise. At first when he reveals that he has started to read books; Thomas Mann’s ‘Buddenbrooks’, Fjodor Dostoyevsky’s ‘The Idiot’ and ‘The Brothers Karamazov’.

“And it is an interesting point why the hell films have to be so stupid!“ He erupts.

“Why do all lines have to be about something? A plot. When books have a red thread, they only brush it momentarily!” he says and lets his index finger touch the table for a while, before it again pops up.” And then again in a flash much later. “Whereas a film is completely tied to the plot. Even a Tarkovsky film has nowhere near the same depth as a novel. It could be fun to take some of the novel’s qualities – even that they talk nineteen to the dozen, which is what I like in Dostoyevsky – and include that.”

How would that appear in a film?

“Well, even this room holds a thousand stories you could include. There is a lot of material which doesn’t issue from an image. For instance, the story of the origin of this chair. How has it been used previously and why is it exactly this chair here and not another chair which perhaps ought to have been here.”

You mean, a depth in the story which is usually perceived as diversions in a film?

“Yes. Why does the bottle look like that?” He nods to a bottle of water on the table. “Why do we drink that water? Is it cheaper? Or the bar code on it. How did that originate?”

It is doubtful whether bar codes will be part of von Trier’s next film. Sex seems a safer bet. At any rate, he suddenly says: “I’ve given Peter Aalbæk a choice between two titles: ‘Shit in the Bedsore’ and ‘The Nymphomaniac’. And he seems to think that a film with the title ‘The Nymphomaniac’ might be easier to market, he laughs.”

Is it something you intend to make a film about?

“I’m researching on nymphomania. And Marquis de Sade. I’ve found that 40 per cent of all nymphomaniacs are also cutters, in the sense that they cut themselves. But then again, it’s politically incorrect to speak of nymphomania, because the concept in itself is seen to indicate that we cannot relate to female sexuality. As I understand, many of them cannot obtain satisfaction, so they use sex like cutting because it is something within their control. I suppose they carry around a fear or pain that they conceal beneath that.” He looks ahead for a while without speaking. “But it’s no fun if they’re just humping away all the time.” He ponders. “Then it’ll just be a porn flick.”

He does not seem all alone in the universe, the director, as he lies there on his big couch and turns the details of a new film over in his head, but I wonder whether it is really the next film from Lars von Trier that he is outlining to me.

ARE we alone in the universe? I ask instead.

“We are,” he says. “But no one wants to realize it. They keep wanting to push limits and fly wherever,” he laughs. “Forget it! Look inward.”

Related Link: Read the Full Production Notes for Melancholia

Killer Elite: The Real World of the SAS

Killer Elite: The Real World of the SAS

To recreate intimate details of a world that is as secretive, complex and finely tuned, as that of the SAS could not have happened without the actors and the director having special insight into this world. The actors were lucky to have consultants to take them into that world as part of their research.

Clive Owen learned a lot about what it means to be in the SAS from those who know first-hand. He explains: “Well actually I know a few ex-SAS guys so I could pick their brains a bit and then I had a couple of meetings with an SAS consultant, a guy who had been in the SAS for twenty-five years. He really explained the whole selection process of the SAS, which was fascinating. He told me that half of the people are eliminated in the first week of physical training. They’ve been chosen because they are the fittest, but when they are put through the process they are very quickly thrown out.”

Through the process of writing the screenplay and directing the film, Gary McKendry also had some invaluable advisors on hand to give the authenticity where it was needed. He says: “We talked to a lot of SAS and Navy Seal guys. It was interesting because they were from very different worlds, very different approaches, but wound up in the same place. We got some really great advisors who were crucial to get it right. Hopefully we got it right.”

Killer Elite: The Real World of the SAS

Killer Elite is a story of deeply human themes: belonging, loss and redemption; but at the same time it is an exploration of men who are required to be extraordinary, to ask more of themselves than most of us ever need to. Gary McKendry ties the action scenes, so integral to the film’s flow and story, to these deeper themes: “It was really important to me that there wasn’t this big dividing line between drama and action. The key for me was keeping it real, keeping some truth in it. These characters are physical creatures but they’re incredibly intelligent and the price they pay emotionally is quite deep.”

Keeping it real meant a lot of the action is ‘in camera’, something that is becoming rare in contemporary action films. Producer Steve Chasman is thrilled that having such a talented cast allowed for this. “Because Jason and Clive are both so physically gifted, we wanted to try to do things that would really surprise the audience. A lot of movies these days, if you watch them, the cameras are shaking and all you see is a punch with a fist or a knee or an elbow and invariably it’s always the stunt man and then they do a close up of the actor. In this film, for the majority of it, we see everyone in camera. Jason takes a lot of pride in that, and Clive does as well. Even Bob [De Niro] mixed it up, which is really exciting.”

Clive Owen is no stranger to action on-screen, and the type of work it involves is something he really enjoys. “There’s something very satisfying about doing fights in movies because they are very, very specific. The lines of what you have to execute are very clear. It’s like there are beats, and the precision and the objectives are really clear. It’s different with dialogue because there’s so many different ways you can interpret things but with a good fight, it’s very clear what you’ve got to try and execute and I find that quite satisfying.

I have a very big fight with Jason’s character and that took a lot of training. They had a brilliant stunt team on this, the best I have ever worked with to tell you the truth, and in terms of their discipline and the way they approach the fights. It is quite a process; it is something that you do have to prepare for. You can’t just walk onto the set and start picking that sort of stuff up. It’s a long fight. Even though it’s only a few minutes in the movie, it’s a long time to do a fight for that length and it did require a couple of hours a day for quite a few weeks just getting ready for the fight scenes.”

Related Link: Read the Full Production Notes for Killer Elite

3: A Film About Dangers of Intimacy

Sophie Rois in 3 Movie

Imagine the possibilities.

Hanna and Simon, a couple in their early forties, live together in Berlin. With their 20th anniversary looming, they both become restless despite being truly and deeply in love. Unbeknownst to one another, they separately become acquainted with Adam, a younger man, and fall in love with him. Clearly not your typical 1930’s romp, this reinvention of those classic films with Tykwer’s sleek direction is a playful update: an intellectual study of a modern couple looking for redefinition in a world of absolutes.

Director’s Statement

Love, work, daily life and death are intertwined and formed anew in this story, fused in a different way; it is a film about closeness and distance, loneliness and peer pressure, about the dangers of intimacy and the temptation of the unfamiliar. 3 revolves around the longings, hopes, enigmas, and contradictions of three people approaching middle age, who have had to pose some fundamental questions about the so-called “successful” lives they live. What does it mean today to live “properly” – in a social, emotional, political or private way?

3 is an attempt – at once tender and drastic, as ironic as it is serious – to describe the feeling that people have today as life brings them further away from birth and even closer to death. The storytelling methods used are sometimes elliptic, often fragmented, and then very strict, each one necessitated by the feeling being explored in each situation. In this way, the film investigates the condition of a generation that still – more or less doggedly – lights to depart from the patterns impressed upon them by their socialization.

3

Directed by: Tom Tykwer
Starring: Sophie Rois, Sebastian Schipper, Devid Striesow, Annedore Kleist, Angela Winkler
Screenplay by: Tom Tykwer
Production Design by: Uli Hanisch
Cinematography by: Frank Griebe
Film Editing by: Mathilde Bonnefoy
Costume Design by: Polly Matthies
Music by: Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek, Gabriel Isaac Mounsey, Tom Tykwer
MPAA Rating: None.
Studio: Strand Releasing
Release Date: September 16, 2/011

Aishwarya Rai 60 Minutes Interview

Aishwarya Rai 60 Minutes Interview

Her name is Aishwarya Rai, and she is an actress living and working in Bombay, India. The reigning queen of Indian cinema (and also a classically trained dancer) Rai has starred in 24 films over the last seven years…

Who is the most beautiful woman in the world? Half a century ago, Hollywood would have presented her to us. Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman or perhaps Elizabeth Taylor. But today? Correspondent Bob Simon reports the woman who currently holds the title, at least according to thousands of Web sites, Internet polls and even Julia Roberts, is someone you’ve probably never heard of.

Her name is Aishwarya and she is an actress living and working in Bombay, India. The reigning queen of Indian cinema (and also a classically trained dancer) has starred in 24 films over the last seven years.

That may seem like a lot of movies, but Bollywood, India’s film capital, is famous for churning out more movies a year than Hollywood. Three new films are produced and distributed worldwide every day, attracting a global audience of 5 billion people. That’s twice the reach of Hollywood.

The reason Bollywood films have such universal appeal is because they’re squeaky-clean. There are no sex scenes, not even kissing. Every time you think someone’s going to do it, they’ll burst into song instead.

“I’d assume that’s really a reflection of our society,” says, when asked to explain the films’ modesty. “Of course people kiss and of course people have a very healthy love life. This is the land of the Kama Sutra. But nevertheless, in our society you don’t really see people around the street corner kissing or being extremely, overtly, physically demonstrative publicly. They do it privately but not publicly.”

Unlike some of her Hollywood counterparts, Rai’s very much like the women she portrays: wholesome, dutiful and deeply religious. So much so, she insisted we visit her favorite temple for this interview.

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Anna Karenina begins production this month

Anna Karenina begins production this month

Joe Wright will direct the epic romance Anna Karenina, adapted from Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel by Academy Award winner Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love). The Working Title Films production will commence filming in the U.K. and Russia this month. Focus Features will distribute the movie domestically, and Universal Pictures International (UPI) will distribute the movie internationally, in the second half of 2012.

Anna Karenina marks Mr. Wright’s third Working Title movie with Focus and UPI, following the award-winning boxoffice successes Pride & Prejudice and Atonement. Also for Working Title and UPI, he directed The Soloist; also for Focus, he most recently directed the hit adventure thriller Hanna.

Working Title co-chairs Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner are producing Anna Karenina with Paul Webster; the three were Academy Award nominees as the producers of Mr. Wright’s Best Picture-nominated Atonement. Also with Focus, Mr. Webster was a Golden Globe Award nominee as producer of Eastern Promises.

Keira Knightley, Academy Award-nominated for Pride & Prejudice, will star as Anna Karenina in her third collaboration with Mr. Wright. Ms. Knightley will be starring opposite two-time Academy Award nominee Jude Law, as Anna’s husband Aleksei Karenin; and Aaron Johnson (Nowhere Boy), as Count Vronsky. Rounding out the cast will be Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire), Matthew Macfadyen (Pride & Prejudice), Domhnall Gleeson (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1), Alicia Vikander (The Seventh Son), two-time Academy Award nominee Emily Watson, Olivia Williams (Hanna), and Ruth Wilson (Luther).

Also reteaming with Mr.Wright on Anna Karenina are Academy Award-winning composer Dario Marianelli, twice-Academy Award-nominated costume designer Jacqueline Durran, and three-time Academy Award-nominated production designer Sarah Greenwood. The cinematographer will be Academy Award winner Philippe Rousselot. Melanie Ann Oliver (Focus’ Jane Eyre) will edit the feature. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui will be the choreographer on the movie.

The story unfolds in its original late-19th-century Russia high-society setting and powerfully explores the capacity for love that surges through the human heart, from the passion between adulterers to the bond between a mother and her children. As Anna (Ms. Knightley) questions her happiness, change comes to her family, friends, and community.

Focus Features CEO James Schamus said, “Joe Wright is a master filmmaker, and with Tom Stoppard’s brilliant screenplay this Anna Karenina will be full of both pageantry and emotion. To realize Joe’s vision, we have the perfect producing partners in Working Title and Paul Webster, whose acumen is unsurpassed. With Keira Knightley playing this iconic role and a splendid cast supporting her, today’s moviegoers will be drawn to this powerful story.”

Mr. Bevan commented, “Everyone at Working Title is proud to affirm a longtime collaboration with Joe Wright through this, our fourth picture together. That we are able to re-convene cast and crew from Pride & Prejudice and Atonement makes it all the more exciting. We anticipate that this will be a defining screen version of Anna Karenina.”

Anna Karenina comes to theaters in 2012 and stars Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Saoirse Ronan, Kelly Macdonald, Matthew Macfadyen, Aaron Johnson, Olivia Williams, Andrea Riseborough. The film is directed by Joe Wright.

Read more Keira Knightley news, interviews and pictures >>