Michael Winterbottom’s film ‘Genova’ is an insightful, heart-squeezing study of family dynamics. It’s a coming of age story that observes the nature of forgiveness and grief between a father and his two daughters as they learn to find their way in the spooky Italian city of Genova. Switching from moments of harrowing grief to romantic cityscapes, the film gives its audience a rocky journey.
Watching the film is a journey of cultural adjustment – it’s as if Winterbottom wants to take his audience through the disorientating experience of landing in a completely foreign place. This is accentuated by Winterbottom’s signature use of hand-held cameras and informal style of doing takes.
The film was inspired by a visit to the city of Genova that Michael Winterbottom made some years before making the film. He was also inspired by the novels “Moderato Cantabile” by Marguerite Duras, borrowing the idea of two girls going to a piano lesson in a city with a port and Nic Roeg’s film ‘Don’t Look Now’for its Venetian atmosphere.
A film about multi-culturalism
It might seem unusual that Colin Firth, an English actor was cast into the role of ‘The father who moves from America’ – but in fact this greatly enriches the quality of the film as a representation of multi-cultural families. First and foremost, it accentuates the girls’ experience of displacement in the film, as the father is already a European. Beyond that, it is a refreshing reflection of the increasing multi-culturalism in families of the world today.
Talking about Colin Firth’s casting, Andrew Eaton says:
“It was important for Michael that the father be English as he’s English, as a director it was easier for him to tell that story.”
A very personal story
Michael Winterbottom talks at length about the importance of this film for him, saying: “For me the film is about a father’s love for his children and the children’s relationship with each other, the death of the mother is just a starting point, I was more interested in looking at how they get on with the rest of their lives, to the extent that they can and the repetition of those daily things that is at the heart being in a family and at the heart of getting over their grief.”
When Eaton had read the finished script he noticed how there were so many personal parallels. “If you look at all of Michael’s films, he’s always interested in dealing with family and displaced people and of people in situations of stress and danger and examining how they deal with that. The first thing that struck me when I read this script was how much of Michael’s life was in there. He has two daughters not dissimilar in age to the two girls in this story and there seemed to be echoes of Michael’s own life in it.”
Genova will be showing as part of the From Blighty with Love season across Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, now from 5th to 18th March 2010, with a chance to put your questions live to British filmmakers live after selected shows. The screening date for Genova is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday 9th March.
By Ellen deVries