Michael Winterbottom‘s new movie is a journey inside two really close worlds: journalism and cinema. And, sometimes, for the “men at work”, this direct attack can be hard to accept. This is the only reason I can find to explain why the press, especially the Italian one, has been so mean about this movie at the London Film Festival.
First of all, we need to clarify that The Face of an Angel IS NOT a movie about the Meredith Kercher case. It’s a film about making a movie about the Meredith Kercher case. So, the fact the director changed the location moving the story from Perugia to Assisi I don’t think (as I heard) it is something so unpardonable or in some ways relevant for the message the film want to transmit to the audience: why were people (British, American, Italian) so obsessed with this murder? Are the media to blame?
Maybe is because I was an off-campus college student in Tuscany when it happened, or maybe is because as screenwriter I found Paul Viragh’s screenplay absolutely genial; but I think The Face of an Angel is a realistic movie about what is the circus of the media now we are increasingly fond. A circus increasingly hungry for blood and powered by journalists like Joe (Johm Hopkins, Alice in Wonderland) who sell for truth fictional conjectures for the sole purpose of being able to sell an extra copy of the newspaper. Willing to do whatever to get a story and then laugh about it afterwards.
But Winterbottom‘s hero is not one of them. Thomas Lang (a terrific and extraordinary, again, Daniel Bruhl) is a troubled film director who needs to rekindle his career. To do that he decides to go to Siena, where the murder happened, to try to write a thriller – screenplay inspired by the story. In the first days in Italy, thanks to his contact, an English freelance called Simone (the stunning Kate Beckinsale) author of a bestseller inspired by the story, The Face of an Angel precisely, Thomas starts to hang out with the other journalists. In this world where everything but the truth seems matter, Thomas can’t find his inspiration.
Anguished by separation from his seven years-old daughter B. (here we have the first link to Dante. Thomas explains to Simone, B. is for Beatrice because she was conceived in Italy) following a break-up with his wife, Thomas starts this oniric travel (often induced by alcohol and drugs) through Dante’s Hell, Purgatory and, finally, Paradise. These dreamlike visions include, among other things, nightmares in which Thomas himself is stabbed (with the murder weapon used against Meredith) by an Italian screenwriter and criminologist (an eerie Valerio Mastandrea).
For Thomas everything will change when, to enter the world of Amanda, Meredith and Raffaele (left on the sidelines by the media because too little enigmatic in order to make headlines and draw the attention of readers) will start to hang out with a British schoolgirl (BIFA‘s nominated for her great interpretation Cara Delevingne). In this second part of the film, Thomas finds the right size for his screenplay: a story about a few elements certain. But, above all, a story about the aspects and the feelings associated with this murder the audience needs to remember, two strong feeling: the importance of love and the importance of the memory of those who have been lost.
Obviously, with this new line of writing to replace the planned bloody thriller, the production will decide not to invest more on the project, for Thomas publicist desperation (Shakespeare’s in Love On Stage star Alistair Petrie). But Thomas will finally end his personal journey and will be ready to leave the Hell and to find his Heaven.
“She is the story. Guilty or not that’s what all want to read”