from the Stone”
Producer Dean Zanuck and Director Eric Howell have taken a
calculated risk in bringing “Voice from the Stone” to the big screen.
It's non-genre. That
is, it doesn't fit neatly into any of the traditional categories of drama,
mystery, thriller, or horror, not to mention comedy, romance, farce,
historical, fantasy, family, and sci-fi.
It's kind of a ghost story within a family drama, set in Tuscany in
Nine-year-old Jakob (Edward Dring) hasn't spoken a word since his
mother died in his presence 7 months ago.
She had some kind of mysterious fever, and Jakob's father, Klaus (Marton
Csokas) had gone to seek medical help, so Jacob was the only one with his
Mother, Malvina (Caterina Marino), who assured him on her deathbed that
some other woman would come to love him.
Enter the new Nanny. Verena
(Emilia Clarke) is first shown in a tearful farewell from her previous
client, so we get it that she's very good at what she does, which is care
for challenging children. Jakob
is a challenge, all right. He
broods a lot, runs off by himself to play in the nearby woods or quarry,
and sometimes hangs around the high tower connected with his castle-like
Klaus tells Verena that the huge estate has been in his wife's
family for hundreds of years. Klaus
is an artist who quit sculpting the day his wife died, so in his own way,
he's gone silent, as well, at least artistically.
He obviously loves Jakob, but is at his wit's end trying to get him
to speak, so turns to Verena for help.
She tries to form a relationship with Jakob, but it's difficult.
Though obedient to his father, he doesn't seem to want to follow any of
Verena's suggestions or instructions. Though
Klaus dresses up in a suit every day, he seems to do little except brood
and smoke cigarettes. Verena
meets the old groundskeeper, who only speaks Italian with her, and the old
grandmother, who only speaks English with her.
Curiously, the grandmother doesn't seem to relate to any other
members of the family; only Verena.
One day Verena finds Jakob intently listening at a wall that
adjoins the family crypt. Klaus
says Jakob is hearing the voice of his Mother, which Verena doubts, but
after she's drawn in to the family dynamics, she wonders herself if it's
possible. Verena tries on some
of Malvina's clothes, at the insistence of the Grandmother, and at first
Klaus is indignant, then encouraging.
Stunned, he tells Verena that he didn't realize how much she
resembles Malvina, and then hesitantly asks if Verena might also be
willing to model for him, as Malvina did.
Verena is reluctant at first, but eventually complies, which sets
off some long-neglected erotic feelings in her, and possibly in Klaus, as
well (part of the movie's technique is blurring the distinction between
fantasy and reality). The
closeness with Klaus seems to correspond with some breakthroughs with
Jakob, as he sometimes becomes playful with Verena, and seems to enjoy her
So is there a voice from the crypt, and if so, is it Malvina, and
what is she trying to convey to the living?
While Verena dreams of taking Malvina's place in the family, she
also has nightmares of being summarily dispatched, as she fears Malvina
might have been. Are we
supposed to be charmed, scared, intrigued, or merely curious?
Though “Voice from the Stone” is slow-moving, and subtitled
(mostly at the beginning), and conveys the atmosphere of a previous
generation of filmmaking, it's unique enough to arouse the curiosity of
the more adventurous “art house” moviegoer.
But despite the recent star power of its leading lady, it's not
likely to go mainstream. Because
it will struggle to find its niche audience.