The film “Voice from the Stone” was filmed in 2017 by the debutant director from the USA, Eric D. Howell. Belongs to the genre of Gothic mysticism. In such works, it is important to immerse the viewer in a strictly adjusted atmosphere of the irrational and give him a certain amount of unsaid. The author did it: a spirit living in a stone, a human body used as a phylactery, and other frightening “chips”. And also – the use of the sfumato technique and atmospheric shooting in Italian Siena, in the 16th century Villa Chelsa.
The film is filled with incredible visual and semantic contrasts. In terms of genre, this is a mixture of a romantic fairy tale with a mystical thriller, seasoned with dark psychedelic and light eroticism. In essence, it is a psychological retro-drama (the time of action is the 1950s). Screenwriter Andrew Shaw was inspired by the gothic novel Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. The literary basis was the book of the same name by Silvio Raffo. The main “fairy-tale idea” migrated from it to the screen adaptation: a stone as a conductor of desires, passion and love in the dramatic story of the main character.
An old estate in Tuscany plunged into darkness after the death of its owner. A grieving widower, 40-year-old sculptor Klaus, lives surrounded by stone sculptures of his beloved, placed a crypt with her body in the mansion. Little son Jacob didn’t say a word for a year. He promised his dying mother that he would speak only when she returned to him. This is the starting point of the plot of the film “Voice from the Stone.”
The main character is Verena, a social educator and governess for problem children. At the invitation of Klaus, a young lady comes to his house to help return speech to his son. Through silence, Jacob keeps in touch with his dead mother: he hears her voice, which comes from the stone walls. Verena is determined to cure the child, but can’t handle his stubbornness. Two circumstances prevent her from leaving the castle. She sincerely became attached to the boy. An attraction arose between her and the owner of the estate, which began to grow into an ardent feeling.
Verena is very lonely, she was left without parents early, she wants to find a house, a family. But to love her as she is, men cannot (neither small nor big). Memory tenaciously holds both in its captivity. A brave and cheerful girl decides to bring them closer by trying on the role of Malvina. The modest nanny changes her appearance: away with the old-fashioned coat, gray uniform, heavy boots; she is wearing the dresses and jewelry of the deceased. She learns to play music, acquires the manners of an aristocrat, behaves confidently in the castle.
However, there is a certain frightening and alluring enchantment in this gray stone hulk. All inhabitants live exclusively in memories of the past. But there is something else here, more powerful and mysterious. The secret of the family estate is discovered by the hereditary butler Alessio and the elderly servant Lilia. Jacob’s mother is an infernal woman, even after death she refuses to leave her child. The spirit of Malvina is looking for a way to return.
Verena does not believe in reincarnation, but from fright she also begins to hear voices, see ghosts. On the one hand, she is not ready to make her body a “vessel of life” for the deceased. On the other hand, getting used to the role of Malvina has already gone too far. The physical and mental health of the girl is undermined, after an acute psychosis, her convergence into insanity begins.
The film’s unexpected ending is disappointing. An idyllic picture of a reunited family: mother and son, as in the old days, play the piano together, and the husband and father tenderly listen to music. The audience wonders what really happened. Those who believe in mystical powers and the afterlife claim that Malvina has returned, having moved into the body of Verena. The ghost disappeared, the stone stopped talking. Supporters of spiritual healing practices are convinced that the nanny stopped the child’s clinical condition and helped his father survive the grief. She ousted Malvina from their hearts, completely taking on her appearance. And what at the same time was moved by the mind – the costs of the profession, so to speak.
It turns out a sort of philosophical debate about how “love conquers death.” But the author’s message that conveys the essence of the film is slipping out of sight. These people did not meet by chance, but so that each of them could “close their gestalt”. Everyone got what they wanted. The boy who spoke again had a loving mother. The man coped with the bitterness of loss and draws inspiration from new feelings. The girl got rid of the loneliness that tormented her and found the human environment that she needed – a family. But how will the cardinally changed and half-witted Verena live, having assumed the role of another person and thus losing her own face? Her phrase explains a lot: “None of us has remained the same.”
“Voice from the Stone” is a thoughtful story in which the seemingly idealistic reunion, the rebirth of the family, contrasts with what really is. After viewing, it remains only to reflect on the topic “What is the price for happiness” and doubt the validity of the well-known saying “In battle, all means are good.” In general, the film can be regarded as a metaphor for finding a way out of loneliness and getting rid of inner emptiness.