Exquisite visuals and a delicately shaded performance by Emilia Clarke as a nurse trying to unlock the emotions of a pathologically withdrawn boy living in an isolated castle in Tuscany are the picture’s great strengths. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
An ancient castle, its crenulated tower looking out onto woods shrouded in mist. A crypt, the final resting place of 40 generations of castle inhabitants.
A heavy door, creaking open to reveal the craggy, glowering face of a disapproving old man. A mysterious master of the manse, darkly brooding. A pathologically withdrawn boy, rendered mute by the death of his beloved mother from a wasting illness. A dewy young nurse, arriving at this isolated place, given the task of somehow helping the boy to overcome his trauma and speak once more.
There’s even a ghost.
Movie Review ★★★½
‘Voice from the Stone,’ with Emilia Clarke, Edward Dring, Marton Csokas, Lisa Gastoni, Caterina Murino, Remo Girone. Directed by Eric Howell, from a screenplay by Andrew Shaw, based on the novel “La Voce Della Pietra” by Silvio Raffo. 90 minutes. Rated R for some sexuality/nudity. Varsity.
All elements of a classic haunted-house story are present and accounted for in “Voice from the Stone.”
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This impressive first feature from director Eric Howell is remarkably assured and elegantly mounted thanks to the cinematography of Peter Simonite and the production design of Davide De Stefano — who make the most of the castle in Tuscany where much of the picture was shot.
Adapted by screenwriter Andrew Shaw from the novel “La Voce Della Pietra” by Italian writer Silvio Raffo, “Voice from the Stone” is a genteel mood piece rather than a full-on fright fest.
Restraint seems to have been Howell’s guiding principle as he creates a mood not of fear, but of growing unease on the part of the young woman (played by Emilia Clarke in a role very different from her “Mother of Dragons” character in “Game of Thrones”).
As the nurse, Verena, she is self-assured, tender but determined to persuade the boy Jakob (9-year-old Edward Dring) that “the dead do not speak” and that he must stop listening at the castle walls in the hope of hearing his mother’s voice murmuring in the stones. As she does so, her relationship with the boy’s formidable father (Marton Csokas) gradually shifts from one of cautious reserve to one of growing passion.
Isolated in the castle and with the encouragement of a white-haired grandmotherly figure (Lisa Gastoni), she delves into the background of the boy’s lovely concert-pianist mother (Caterina Murino). And the deeper she goes the more she begins to believe that she, too, hears the mother’s voice, whispering from beyond the grave.
She implores the spirit, “let me care for him (the boy). Let me care for them both (father and son).” And her own persona begins to change as she starts to take on the characteristics of the dead woman.
With her wonderfully expressive face, Clarke carries the picture, navigating her character’s gradual transformation with grace and conviction. She and the movie’s exquisite visuals make “Voice from the Stone” a classic genre piece.