Michael Winterbottom talks about his genre-bending new film inspired loosely by the Amanda Knox-Meredith Kercher case.
Michael Winterbottom looks at the media frenzy surrounding the Amanda Knox-Meredith Kercher case as a very loose jumping off point for his story of a filmmaker the media circus around a fictional murder trial in Italy who is questioning his own family priorities. Daniel Brühl, Kate Beckinsale, Cara Delevingne star in the film, which premieres in Masters tomorrow, is sold by WestEnd.
When you optioned Barbie Latza Nadeau’s book, did you have any idea that the author would become part of the story?
I read the book and then I met Barbie in Rome. Barbie took me up to Perugia, and I knew she could be a central character. By the time we started the outline of the film I knew the role of the media would be one factor of the story we told.
Were you in Italy for the Amanda Knox frenzy?
I was there for the first day of the appeal. There were a lot of journalists rushing around, like we show in the film. And the main report was about her hair and the clothes she was wearing. These were intelligent journalists and at the same time the information for them to relay was very trivial and superficial because that’s all there was to report.
This film also examines the filmmaking process and how Daniel Bruhl’s character is coming to terms with the kind of film he wants to make, and the kind of film he could get financed.
After meeting Barbie, one thing you are aware of is that journalists are writing about other people’s lives. I didn’t want the filmmaker to make a remark on journalists’ lives and their morality, the filmmaker is also involved there.
It allowed a discussion about the issues and what should our response be? Maybe we should make the film more about the central truth of the fact that someone has lost a daughter.
Why was it important for you to keep the victim at the centre of things?
The Kercher family had talked a lot about that, with a huge amount of dignity, the reasons they went for the trial was to make sure that amongst the chaos, it was remembered that someone had lost their life. That was one of the central things I thought about.
We wanted to make that a general point, it’s about the possibility of love for someone who is not there, and fathers and daughters…Daniel’s character is missing his daughter in a much more mundane way.
What about the fantastical elements inspired by Dante? I never thought I’d see a CG dragon in a Michael Winterbottom film.
All those things are taken very directly from Dante. Dante writes so much about love and loss.
It was also a bit of comedy – it’s pathetic that Daniel’s character wants to use Dante as a prop. But there are elements of The Divine Comedy that are relevant, so I wanted to have my cake and eat it too, using it in the film as a device but also mocking how bad an idea it was for a film.
But I don’t want people to think it’s a big CGI film, there are about 4 seconds of that (laughs).
This is your second project in Italy in a row.
It’s been a coincidence. For The Trip [To Italy] it was just an enjoyable place to do a road movie for food, it’s a good excuse to have great meals on the Italian coast.
For this film, part of the story is the culture clash. The American angle, the British angle and the Italian angle. Part of the media coverage was about the Italian justice system and was it a fair trial?…These journalists have looked at this for seven years and they don’t even agree on the correct verdict.
This is model Cara Delevingne’s first big film role. Did you see a spark in her immediately?
I was totally sure she could do it. I met her once [during casting] for 15 minutes and she was great. I wanted someone full of life but also on that cusp between being a teenager and a grownup. She’s got amazing energy. She’s got this great sense of enjoying things and getting the most of out life…When it came to the script she immersed herself into the part.
Have the families of Meredith Kercher or Amanda Knox seen the film?
We haven’t had any contact with the Knox family but Meredith’s brother has seen it. We dedicate the film at the end ‘In Memory of Meredith Kercher,’ I didn’t want to do that unless someone from her family had seen it.
Do you think the film will have people talking about the case in new way?
When we released the trailer for buyers in February, immediately there was internet noise about it. But if people watch the film people will see we don’t have an opinion about what the correct verdict is. It’s more about someone who lost her life, and those experiences ahead of her are taken away from her.