Lines of Wellington on the short list for Venice
by Fabien Lemercier
22/06/2012 - A month before the official selection is revealed for the 69th Venice Film Festival (from August 29 to September 8), bets are already on about which French films are most likely to make the cut. One of the most prominent among these is Lines of Wellington [trailer, film focus] by Chilean director Valeria Sarmiento, a project initially started up by her husband Raoul Ruiz, who died last summer, that features an impressive cast.
The latter will include Portuguese actors Nuno Lopes and Soraia Chaves, Spanish actress Marisa Paredes, American actor John Malkovich, and French actors Mathieu Amalric, Melvil Poupaud, Elsa Zylberstein, Vincent Perez, and Christian Vadim. They will act alongside Carloto Cotta, Victoria Guerra, Marcello Urgeghe, Jemima West, Alfonso Pimentel, Miguel Borges, Filipe Vargas, Adriano Luz, Joao Luis Arrais, Albano Jeronimo, Joana de Verona, Gonçalo Waddington, Miriam Heard, and Sara Carinhas. The film is to include guest appearances by Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Michel Piccoli, Chiara Mastroianni, and Malik Zidi.
Written by Portuguese screenwriter Carlos Saboga (who previously adapted Mysteries of Lisbon [trailer]), the screenplay starts on September 27, 1810 when French troops commanded by Marshal Massena (Poupaud) are defeated in the Serra do Buçaco by the Anglo-Portuguese army of General Wellington (Malkovich). Despite their victory, the Portuguese and British are forced to retreat from the enemy, who are greater in number, in order to attract them to Torres Vedras, where Wellington had built fortified lines to stop them. The Anglo-Portuguese command organises for the whole area between the battlefield and the lines of Torres Vedras to be evacuated. It’s a massive scorched earth campaign to prevent the French from collecting supplies.
Lines of Wellington portrays a multitude of characters from all social backgrounds -- soldiers and civilians, men, women and children, young and old -- as they flee across the hills and valleys, through villages in ruins, charred forests, and devastated crops away from the advancing enemy. Persecuted by the French, this mass of fleeing inhabitants try to save themselves, determined to resist the invaders and throw them out of the country. Some take advantage of the chaos to follow their most basic instincts.
Young idealist lieutenant Pedro de Alencar (Carloto Cotta), bubbly young Englishwoman Clarissa Warren (Victoria Guerra), unscrupulous ambulant salesman Pena Branca (Miguel Borges), vindictive sergeant Francisco Xavier (Nuno Lopes), and exuberant prostitute Martírio (Soraia Chaves): all these characters are on different paths towards the lines of Torres, where the final battle will decide each of their fates.
Valeria Sarmiento was first discovered with Notre mariage (Grand Prize for best new director in San Sebastian in 1984), then went on to make, among others, Amelia Lópes O'Neill (which competed at the Berlinale in 1991) and Elle (which competed in San Sebastian in 1995).
Produced by Paulo Branco for Alfama Films, Lines of Wellington was co-produced by France 3 Cinéma and notably received support from ARTE France, ICA, RTP,Canal +, and Cofinova. Made on a budget of €4.8m, with 65 % of funding from France and 35 % from Portugal, this feature will be released in France on November 21 by Alfama Films, who are also in charge of international sales.
(Translated from French)