She is a nurse who clutches a sheaf of letters as she travels cross-country by bus to her new assignment in rural Italy, an isolated, sprawling estate in Tuscany where stone was once quarried but which now crumbles and moulders. Verena knows she is going into a difficult situation, taking care of young Jakob who has not spoken a word in the six months since his beloved mother died but she is unprepared for the hostility which greets her.
With a stormy disposition patriarch Klaus Rivi (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter‘s Marton Csokas) disdainfully presumes Verena’s failure with Jakob almost before she is over the threshold while groundsman Alessio (Live by Night‘s Remo Girone) proceeds as though she is not there, and even though Verena counters their dismissals in flawless fluent Italian they still fail to hear her words.
Her only ally in the household the graceful elderly Lilia (former Italian starlet Lisa Gastoni), it is Jakob whom she must break through to, Jakob who listens at the cracked plaster of the bedroom wall for the voice of his beloved mother Malvina (Casino Royale‘s Caterina Murino), a beautiful concert pianist of international renown whose family have owned the estate for over a thousand years.
Adapted from Silvio Raffo’s 1996 novel La voce della pietra by Andrew Shaw and directed by former stuntman Eric D Howell, rather than atmosphere there is a feeling which runs through Voice from the Stone that something important has been lost in translation, first to English then to the screen, filmed in late 2014 and shelved until now having failed to mature to a fine wine in the intermission.
The corridors of the mansion echoing with the ghost of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw and its film adaptation The Innocents rather than the spirit of Malvina, like Daniel Radcliffe in The Woman in Black the leading role has been cast not because Emilia Clarke is right for the part of Verena but because her name will draw an audience, a decision which puts commercial consideration above artistic and fatally wounds an already ailing proposition.
As Game of Thrones‘ Daenerys Targaryen or Terminator Genisys‘ Sarah Connor Clarke is a leader, a warrior, but portraying a firm nurse of assured and rational mind does not allow her to express her strengths nor does she show the doubts which would make Verena more interesting, and while the premise, colour palette and period setting strongly remind of The Awakening it lacks the twists of that clever film, instead offering the obvious with so little flair or originality the ninety four minutes become a chore.
Jakob has rages, a bloody hare is left is hung over the mirror, Verena is obliged to wear Malvina’s dress when she tears her own and misunderstood Klaus softens and asks to sculpt her, and suddenly in the best style of Kenny Everett all Verena’s clothes fall off before madness overcomes her, sudden and utterly incongruous with her previously established plodding demeanour.
The performances as hollow and empty as the lifeless house, despite the magnificent setting the repeated shots of the misty forests of the estate are presented without menace, and devoid of the requisite passion or desperation to kindle the fires the halls of the estate are destined to remain cold, damp and draughty; whatever the noises in the walls or the face which Klaus traces with his chisel, this is more akin to drawing blood from a stone.