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  Once Upon
A Time...
Pale Rider meets The Name Of The Rose
                                         as Wales stands in for medieval England
riter-director Alberto Sciamma (Killer Tongue) said the idea came to him at 7.45am one morning on a crowded Piccadilly
line tube train. He explained: “I’m sharing somebody else’s armpit and the cacophony of smells overwhelms me. Next to me stands a beautiful woman, my co-writer [and wife] Harriet Sand. I look at her. ‘Let’s write something about the Black Death, 1348, something with smells, about a foreigner, love, sex, guilt, religion, death, superstition and vengeance.’”
The eventual result of this early morning ‘script meeting’ is Anazapta, a rain-drenched, mud-splattered medieval thriller, co-starring Lena Headey, Jason Flemying, David La Haye, Ian MacNeice and Jon Finch. Set in England, it was actually shot at Tretower Court, Powys, and Caldicot Castle, Monmouthshire.
Meanwhile, back at the plot... Said Barcelona-born Sciamma, one-time Fujifilm Award winner for his short Balls Of Fire: “To write about big emotions we needed an untouched and exotic land- scape, a space where imagination is not restricted by the everyday.
“1348 England was that space; the Dark Ages were hit so hard by the plague that feudal society collapsed forever. From the onset we rejected a clean look;
we wanted mud and dirt, the coldest rain possible and wind.
“On that stylistic landscape, a group of characters were born: a corrupt Bishop, a manipulative priest, a wild steward, a cowardly physician, a myste- rious French prisoner and a forsaken lady of the manor.
“Lena Headey is an actor with huge courage. She read the script and fought hard to get the time to play the part. She told me: ‘it will be a giggle’. I laughed and replied, ‘it’s going to be effing cold’. She said, ‘let’s do it.’ Anazapta came to be out of mud and passion.”
What Sciamma couldn’t have predict- ed was how, ironically, a modern-day pestilence would suddenly arrive to plague his ambitious 650-year-old tale.
Director of Photography Alastair Meux explained some of the major chal- lenges and problems now facing the pro- duction due to the onset of the most recent foot-and-mouth epidemic.
“The major problem was the loss of all but one of our locations two weeks before the first day of shooting. Fortunately, the one location we had was a 12th Century Manor house with a courtyard, where a lot of the film was set.
“I think the loss of the other locations helped the film by creating a more claus- trophobic atmosphere. For example, a drowning sequence was switched from a river to a well, which we built as a set.
“Unlike most medieval films which have chickens, sheep and goats running
  Photos above l-r: Writer-director Alberto Sciamma; DP Alastair Meux; main and opposite page: Scenes from Anazapta
30 • Exposure • Fuji Motion Picture And Professional Video

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