LOCARNO, Switzerland — Italian director Guido Chiesa (“Johnny the Partisan,” “Working Slowly”) is seeking to tackle a true kidnapping and sexual abuse story with similarities to the one behind Lenny Abrahamson’s “Room,” but from the point of view of the monster.
The project, titled “Elisabeth,” is among those selected by Locarno’s Alliance for Development initiative which seeks to foster early stage co-productions between producers in Germany, Italy, France, and Switzerland.
While “Room” and “Elisabeth” are both based on real events that took place in Austria, a key difference is that “in this case the monster is a father who kidnaps his own daughter, named Elisabeth, holds her captive for 24 years in a bunker/basement underneath his house and has seven children with her,” says Chiesa. So his film also deals with the taboo subject of of incest.
Also in “Elisabeth” there will be a catharsis, he notes. “The monster over the course of the story through the relationship with her and the children she bears, establishes a rapport with them that is no longer based on control, power, and violence.”
By the seventh child, Elisabeth has acquired strength, confidence, and the monster “has developed a real loving relationship with one of his children — no longer violence and control.” Then when the first daughter, who is 17, falls very ill he goes against everything he had done over the years and takes her to the hospital, leaving the door open. The story is told from his point of view. “It’s all about the transformation of this man,” Chiesa noted.
The film’s screenplay is based on a novel titled “Elisabeth” by Italian writer Paolo Sortino, published by Einaudi in 2011 and translated in Israel, Spain, Portugal, and Brazil.
Now in final script stage, the project was initiated through French producer Marie Gutmann’s Meroe Films. Italian co-producers Colorado Films Production and Vivo Film are on board. They are seeking a partner for a third European country. The idea is to shoot “Elisabeth,” which can be based anywhere, in French.