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China’s foremost screenwriter, Yan Geling, has teamed with Italian director and producer Cristiano Bortone to adapt Yan’s novella “The Secret Talker.”

Set during the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the film is a romantic thriller centering on a Chinese woman, married to an American college professor, who thought she had found freedom and peace of mind until she suddenly starts receiving emails from a mysterious stalker. The obsessive relationship begins to reveal dark secrets of her past life in China.

“The Secret Talker” is expected to go into production in 2019 with a major Chinese actress as female lead and an American star as male lead.

Yan, who is both an author and screenwriter, was recently responsible for the novel “Youth,” a bittersweet, nostalgic tale of a military entertainment troupe. The book sold close to 1 million copies, and director Feng Xiaogang’s film adaptation was the biggest hit of the Christmas period, earning more than $200 million at the box office.

She previously wrote screenplays for the Chinese version of “Dangerous Liaisons” and “Forever Enthralled,” a biopic of Peking opera star Mei Lanfang, directed by Chen Kaige. Yan’s novels have included “Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl,” directed as a film by Joan Chen; “Siao Yu,” directed by Sylvia Chang and co-written by Ang Lee; and Christian Bale-starring “The Flowers of War” and “Coming Home,” both of which were directed by Zhang Yimou.

Bortone recently directed “Caffe,” the first film to make use of the Italy-China bilateral co-production treaty. Both Bortone and Yan are based in Berlin.

“For many years I tried to find the right way to represent in a movie the passion and fears hidden in the hearts of my two protagonists. I was touched by [Bortone’s] sensitivity and came to think that this would be the right angle to tell this story,” said Yan.