Friday, 19 August, 2016
On the film set of Inkheart
In November 2006 we visited the film shooting in Liguria
They are everywhere. In the alleys, on the stairs, on the walls ... and they are all in black. Black coats, black trousers, black boots. They are Capricorn's men.
And this is Capricorn's village.
“Welcome to Capricorn's village.“ The first words Cornelia hears as she gets off the van that brought her up into the Ligurian mountains from her hotel at the sea. For months she had been feverishly looking forward to arriving at the set and seeing her book "Inkheart" being brought to life.
Together with her children Anna and Ben, Anna's friend Louisa and her assistant Angie, Cornelia has come to Italy to witness the filming of the first scenes in an old Ligurian village.
The village lies in the mountains, surrounded by woods. The shoot takes place amongst decayed facades and alleys of old cobblestone, and towering above is a gigantic manor reminiscent of a stone prison. The village has been abandoned for decades. “To the rest of the world the village is just a collection of tumbledown houses along what can hardly be called a road.“ (Inkheart, Going Farther South)
We are led through narrow alleys up to the movie set location, passing empty houses smelling of old cellars, passing car wrecks and other props –and again and again we come across Capricorn's men, who are waiting in the wings for the next scene, putting on stony faces just for us.
We come to a barn. A dozen cages are arranged in front of it. And button eyes in a furry face are looking us over. Guillaume, the animals keeper at the set, has “Gwin“ on his arm and introduces us to the little marten. Actually he is called “V-Face“ because the marten`s face is formed like the letter V. Cornelia takes him on her arm and for a moment she feels a little like Dustfinger. He has it nice there, in the secluded garden, where beside the martens (Gwin is played by different martens) three piglets and the two goats Margherita and Cioccolata are waiting for the next “performance“.
In the village's centre the film crew is just rehearsing the next scene. They arrange a screen for us to watch the shooting. It's quite difficult to see the actors play – with flocks of cameramen, grips, sound engineers, and extras surrounding the action.
Cornelia has got quiet, does not know where to look first. “This is Capricorn's village. Just as I always imagined.“
What nicer compliment could she give.
“SILENCE!“ ... “SILENCIO!“
Murmur stops, movements freeze ...
“MOVIMENTO!“ ... “ACTION!“
And then we recognize them all:
Basta and Mortola step up to the camera, followed by Cockerell, Meggie, Fenoglio and Flatnose, who clumsily tries to keep up with the group.
Did we imagine them like this?
Maybe not in detail, but yes, here they are, the dark and the bright characters of Cornelia's book.
The scene takes only a few seconds. Then everything is set in motion again, the murmur rises again and the next rehearsal is prepared. Makeup artists check the actors' faces and Flatnose's flat nose, cheeks and necks are powdered again.
Next to us Eliza is sitting together with her dad, her legs stretched out on his lap. Mr Bennett accompanies his daughter during the time of shooting in Italy. Later Eliza's mother and her sister will be there, too. Eliza and most of the film team stayed in the same hotel with us and so it came that in the evening “Flatnose“ stood in the lobby, “Meggie“ came out of the lift, or Resa sat in the lounge, reading – to rest from a strenuous day of shooting, which for most of the team starts at 4:00 a.m.! That's the time actors and crew are brought up to Capricorn's village. Makeup and costumes take a lot of time and most has to be made of the light of these late autumn days.
Eliza's day starts only at 5:15 a.m., because her makeup takes only fifteen minutes. But in addition to acting she is tutored, since she misses school in England for a couple of weeks. I asked her, if she misses her friends. “Of course I do.“ But the experiences are so good and it's so much fun. She's learning every day. And when she comes back home, it's always as if she had never been away. She gets along really, really well with Brendan and Paul and the atmosphere at the Inkheart set is very special.
Eliza knew Cornelia's book before going to the auditions in London.
“It's in our school library.“
She loved Meggie's story from the start. Eliza also knows Cornelia's website. She and her dad have browsed the guestbook many times.
Eliza saw all the entries of the disappointed fans who tried for the role of Meggie and she would like to tell everyone who dreams of becoming an actor, not to give up and to keep trying.
Except for Inkheart, which book is your favorite one?
“Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman“ is her quick-fire answer.
Shooting continues for Eliza. And as I watch her walk across the cobblestone in her boots, back to Flatnose and Fenoglio, I think to myself: Yes, this is Meggie. And I'm quite sure that you will agree.
As Eliza said before, all actors get along very well. But this evening at the hotel there is quarrel. Brendan affronts Paul, Paul jostles Brendan. Fortunately only on the screen. Director Iain Softley and his film team have come together to watch the rough cuts of the scenes that were filmed during the past days. Each scene shown from different perspectives, first more reserved, then more impulsive. Eliza is sitting in the second row next to Cornelia. Faces of actors and filmcrew members appear in the projector's light beam, the actors now without makeup and costumes. Paul Bettany is late. He sits down – tall as he is – in the first row, under the protest of Eliza. On the screen appears Brendan again. “He's a wonderful Mo“, Eliza said to me this morning. And she is right. This one scene shows all his warmth, his despair and his love for his family. Brendan is Mo. Someone must have read him out.
A long day of filming ends and the film crew says good night and parts company until the next day's appallingly early wake-up call.
Cornelia stays a few more days before returning to LA. It will take some time to come back to the “real“ world, but at home Mo, Meggie and Dustfinger are already waiting for her in the writing house. And in January she will meet them all again. In flesh and blood. At the shooting in London. And then she will finally face the darkest character of her book. Capricorn!