“Be silent, and hear me… Another woman will come… Let the words you speak be the words that call me back to you.”
Voice From The Stone begins with an end, and with the promise of a new beginning. International pianist Malvina Rivi (Caterina Murino) is on her death bed, uttering these last words to her distraught young son Jakob (Edward George Dring). Seven and a half months later, when lonely itinerant Verena (Emilia Clarke, Game Of Thrones) arrives, it becomes clear that Jakob, taking his mother at her word, has not uttered a single word since her death. Just the latest in a line of nurses hired to make La Rocciosa, the Rivis’ Tuscan castello, echo once again with happy voices, Verena is initially treated with gruff aloofness by both Malvina’s sculptor husband Klaus (Marton Csokas) and the ubiquitous groundsman Alessio (Remo Girone), and welcomed only by the elderly Lilia (Lisa Gastoni). Verena tries to discourage Jakob’s unhealthy compulsion to listen for the sound of his mother’s voice in his bedroom’s wall, in Malvina’s stone coffin and in the rocky clifftop of a now flooded quarry – but soon Verena too is hearing things.
Adapted by Andrew Shaw from Silvio Raffa’s 1996 novel La Voce Della Pietra, Eric D. Howell’s richly atmospheric feature debut is steeped in a high gothic sensibility built on the rock-solid foundations of its location: an ancient, mist-shrouded estate, complete with dizzying parapets, private chapel, family crypt and buried secrets. In a property which has belonged to Malvina’s apparently matriarchal line for forty generations, the combination of governess and (maybe) ghosts resonates with Henry James’ 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw, even if the film’s own setting is the 1950s.
“Is it her, or is it me?”, Verena asks Klaus of the inchoate carving of Malvina that he has completed in Verena’s likeness. At this point, with Verena wearing Malvina’s wardrobe, and winning over her husband and son, it is clear that a substitution is taking place – but whether this transference is part of the family’s natural healing process, or something altogether more sinister and supernatural, is never quite set in stone. The result is an eerie and uncanny mystery, engraved upon evocative locations, some subtle sound design, and Clarke’s endlessly expressive eyebrows.