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Genova - Preview

Colin Firth in Genova

Preview by Jack Foley

AS THE London Film Festival approaches (from October 15 to 30), we’re taking a look at some of the films we think will make the biggest impression.

And among the many British films on display, Colin Firth’s new film Genova looks to be among the most intriguing. Actually, the British actor has a couple of films at the festival, but it’s his collaboration with Michael Winterbottom that looks the most promising.

Firth plays Joe, a university lecturer who leaps at the chance of a year-long teaching job in the Italian town of Genova, seeing it as offering a fresh start for him and his daughters, following the recent death of his wife in a car accident.

When they arrive, they have a month to spend together before term starts and, settled into their apartment, sixteen year old Kelly (Willa Holland) starts to explore the exciting possibilities of this new world. At night her younger sister Mary (Perla Haney-Jardine), who feels responsible for the accident, is haunted by nightmares and by day she starts to see her mother walking in the neighbourhood streets.

According to London Film Festival artistic director Sandra Hebron: “From its gripping early moments, Genova has an immediacy and truthfulness which draws us into the story of a family trying to rebuild itself after a tragic event.”

She adds: “The town itself, with its maze of narrow alleyways, is an atmospheric location, offering up both freedom and danger, a combination of beauty and threat which loosely recalls Don’t Look Now.”

The film is based on a script co-written by Winterbottom and Laurence Coriat (Wonderland) and finds the acclaimed director reuniting with regular cinematographer Marcel Zyskind to shoot the film using largely hand-held cameras.

Ms Hebron concludes that “Genova is a superlative study of family relationships that is both resolutely unsentimental and deeply moving”.

And Colin Firth, too, is immensely proud of the work. Speaking at a recent London junket for another of his new movies, Then She Found Me, he said of the film: “He [Michael Winterbottom] just has this sort of way of making it happen really. You’re not really aware of being directed, so much as being a part of this thing…

“We were walking around with a little video camera and there were 12 of us altogether. The people in the room were less than that… there were no lights, there was no continuity person, a wardrobe department of one, a make-up department of one, a props and design department of one, and a camera and him. There was also just four walls and dialogue you could depart from and come back to at will, and a very quiet and non-interfering director.

“The film, I think, is fantastic and I felt it was this refusal to allow it to slide into anything obvious. It’s never mawkish, it’s never sentimental, it’s never overly dramatic, it’s never tragic… even though it’s pretty weighty stuff. It’s something I’m very proud of.”

Geonova receives its Mayor of London Gala screening at the festival on Wednesday, October 22, 2008, and can also be seen on Sunday, October 26.