Aisling talks about The Nightingale with FILM LIST UK.
Rising Irish-Italian star discusses her role in Jennifer Kent’s brutal period thriller The Nightingale.
At a time when violence in film is supposed to thrill, entertain and titillate audiences, Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale will shake even the most desensitised viewer. Set in 18th-century Tasmania during British colonial rule, Kent’s brutally authentic film is about Clare, a young Irish convict played by Aisling Franciosi. After suffering violence, rapes and the unimaginable loss of her family at the hands of British officers, Clare begrudgingly befriends the Aboriginal tracker, Billy (Baykali Ganambarr), and their two histories of trauma become one path in the demand for justice.
‘There was something really special about the script that made me want to fight to the death to get the role,’ recalls Franciosi. In fact, she wanted the role so badly, she started her research before even landing the job.
‘I was shocked at how systematic it was,‘ says Franciosi.‘Yes, convicts were sent there for real crimes, but a lot of people were sent over for petty things, like stealing food. [Britain] sent their most hardened criminals to Tasmania. At one point the ratio of men to women was nine to one so they started sending women there, basically to populate the colony. You can imagine how horrific it was to be a woman.’
In The Nightingale, we don’t have to imagine. The film is relentless with showing us the evil that was done to female convicts and the Aboriginal population. ‘Rape is an action of horrific violence, domination and destruction,’ says Franciosi. ‘It goes hand-in-hand with war. In the film, we wanted to emphasis that it wasn’t a body assault was being done to, but a human being.’ To accomplish this, Kent was specific about how to shoot the rape scenes: no skin, no pleasure; instead the camera focuses on faces, Clare’s in particular.
Franciosi is aware that for some, the violence will be too much, but she hopes The Nightingale will allow its audience to confront the brutality of history. ‘We didn’t want the audience to have the chance to look away,’ she explains. ‘I think a lot of TV and film allows you to disengage and distance yourself. I think it was important that we make the audience face it.’
While it’s easy to get wrapped up in the violence, The Nightingale is also full of beautiful moments between Clare and Billy as they come to understand that they are both victims of systematic oppression. ‘By treating her with basic human respect and teaching her empathy over cyclical violent, Billy saves Clare from almost destroying herself,’ says Franciosi. That’s what she’s taking away from the film, alongside learning just how deeply the resilience of women runs.
‘So many women had to endure horrific circumstances. Clare’s protecting her hub of a normal life and her future, her child and her husband. She’s enduring horrific abuse, just to cling to the hope of something better and protect her family. If that’s not strength I don’t know what the hell is.’
General release Fri 29 Nov.
Full interview with Aisling for The Times UK.
Brutal colonial drama The Nightingale has caused uproar on the film festival circuit. Its star, the Game of Thrones actress Aisling Franciosi, explains why the movie’s violence is necessary.
To understand The Nightingale you need to know about the ructions. When the film, a brutal historical drama about life in early 19th-century Tasmania, travelled the festival circuit last year it caused uproar. At the Venice Film Festival, when the closing credits rolled and the name of its writer-director, Jennifer Kent, appeared, an Italian critic (male) stood up and roared: “Whore!”
Kent had previously made the sinister yet pleasing modern horror classic The Babadook in 2014, and this was her eagerly awaited follow-up. Yet when The Nightingale played at the Chicago Film Festival there were several noted walkouts. When it played at the Sundance Film Festival an audience member had a seizure. Wherever it plays, it seems, at small or large pre-release screenings, the reactions are visceral and walkouts are frequent.
To understand the walkouts you need to know about the film. Yes, you’ve heard that it’s controversial, perhaps even the most controversial film of the year. Yes, you’ve read that it features rape. And so you’re prepared to be challenged. It’s the story of a married Irish convict and young mother called Clare (a gobsmacking performance from the relatively untested Irish-Italian actress Aisling Franciosi) who is left at the mercy of an uncouth English officer, Lieutenant Hawkins (former Hunger Games hunk Sam Claflin, also a revelation) and his loathsome subordinates in the mid-1820s.
When the early scenes descend into the vicious rape of Clare by Hawkins, in his quarters late at night, it’s almost tolerable because it displays cinematic logic. This will be the traumatic event, the film seems to say, that will mould Clare and launch her heroic and transformative journey. At least that seems to be the format. It happened in Thelma and Louise. This is what’s going to happen here, right?
No such luck. It gets worse for Clare. There’s another prolonged scene of harrowing sexual violence, with multiple people involved. There is murder too, and savage infanticide. And another rape, this time of a wandering Aboriginal mother whose mournful cries, right through the crime, of “Good spirits come help me!” for minutes on end, permeate the skull.
Every white man Clare encounters, as she bolts across the landscape in a bid for freedom and revenge, seems to want to rape or kill her, usually both. Most Aboriginal men are shot or hanged. Another child is murdered. A young man’s head is bashed in. Throats are slit.
The film is profoundly disturbing. But it’s also urgent, necessary and in places quite beautiful. Mostly, Franciosi says, it’s relentless. Relentless and deliberate. “The whole point is that if we’re going to depict something so abhorrent, both in the sexual and racial violence, it has to be realistic,” says the 28-year-old (“My IMDB page says I’m 26, but I’m 28!”), sipping coffee at the crack of dawn in a café in Notting Hill, west London. “And we have to show the emotional destruction it causes, without any let-up. We’re not going to give the viewer a moment to go, ‘Oh, thank God that’s over!’ Because the victim doesn’t get that.”
Franciosi, who played Jamie Dornan’s infatuated babysitter in The Fall and who nabbed some small-screen kudos (however briefly) for playing Jon Snow’s mother, Lyanna Stark, in Game of Thrones was cast in 2016.
She then spent nine months researching Kent’s already densely historical script, reading voraciously about the punishing limits of 19th-century life in what was then Van Diemen’s Land (“Usually nine men to every one woman,” she notes), working closely with a clinical psychologist on the traumatic impact of rape, and meeting rape survivors at a centre for domestic violence in Sydney.
The clinical psychologist was on set, in rural Tasmania in late 2017, for many of the scenes, to ensure accuracy, to support Franciosi and also, it transpires, to support Claflin and the other male performers. Franciosi describes the shooting of one centrepiece scene as emotionally devastating for everyone involved. She says that she was crying between every take, as were Claflin, with whom Franciosi had become good friends during pre-production, and many of the other men.
“I remember when we were doing that scene the psychologist came over to me and said, ‘Would you mind going over and giving the guys a hug because they’re really worried about you.’ It was because I was in bits. And they were in bits. And so were the crew members in the room. Big strapping Aussie men. They were in tears.”
She says that the scenes with Claflin, who plays Yorkshireman Hawkins as a ruthless brute, were especially difficult (“Because he’s so sweet and so lovely”), but also impeccably choreographed. Kent’s rules for shooting these scenes were simple and direct, part of a concerted effort to “desexualise” the filming of screen rape.
“You never see skin, it’s all from Clare’s perspective, and you almost never see two bodies in frame at the one time,” Franciosi says. “We wanted to make it look like what it is — not like a sex scene, but like a crime that’s being done to a human being.”
The finished film, of course, is more than the sum of its controversial scenes. It depicts Clare’s journey to bring Hawkins to justice — or to the nearest version of justice available to a disenfranchised female convict in 19th- century Tasmania. Clare’s relationship with her Aboriginal guide, Billy (Baykali Ganambarr), is delicate and moving, and provides the film with a hint of soul amid such all-consuming nihilism.
Clare’s heroic cri de coeur, “I belong to me and to no one else!”, feels as if it’s boldly articulating, almost nod-to-the-camera style, the contemporary concerns that have rocked the film industry in the past few years.
Franciosi says that she understands why some men might feel threatened by the film. “I understand why it’s tricky,” she says. “And it can seem specific to white men, but it’s about this specific time in history. And I recognise that we’re at a point now where white men are probably feeling attacked from all angles. But the film isn’t saying that all white men are shit. It’s saying, ‘These white men are shit.’ ”
Kent too has rubbished the notion that her film is a simplistic feminist rant, saying that she wants to show how much pain sexual violence causes,“for the victim, obviously, but also for the aggressor. If we can look violence in the face, and truly examine where it comes from, in ourselves and in others, then I think we have the potential to transcend it.”
“It’s not just men who have had very difficult reactions to it,” Franciosi adds. “We’ve had women who were victims who found it triggering and had to leave the cinema. But equally there have been other victims who’ve come up to me and said, ‘I felt understood for the first time as a victim of sexual violence.’
“It’s as if, finally, there’s a film that’s showing what these crimes committed against women truly mean. So when people say that we don’t need to see it to know what it means, I think, ‘No. You actually do.’ ”
The film has been a boost for New York-based Franciosi, who immediately after Venice was declared one of the European film industry’s Shooting Stars (it’s an honorary title handed by the European Film Promotion network to ten white-hot actors and actresses every year — previous holders have included Alicia Vikander and Domhnall Gleeson).
At the moment she’s in London shooting a TV adaptation of the Powell and Pressburger film Black Narcissus (she plays the unstable Sister Ruth). She has high hopes for The Nightingale’s UK release and is predicting heated debates.
“I’m a big believer in messy conversations and having the space to say something difficult without being crushed or, as they say now, cancelled,” she says. “I think, with The Nightingale, we tried as best as we could to address some huge societal questions. And yet everyone who sees it is going to walk away from it with something different and that’s going to spark conversations. And if that’s all that it does, well then that’s great.”
The Nightingale is released on November 29
See the portrait by clicking on the thumbnails below.
Aisling was nominated in category:
Taylor Russell, “Waves”
Julia Fox, “Uncut Gems”
Aisling Franciosi, “The Nightingale”
Jonathan Majors, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”
Noah Jupe, “Honey Boy”
Chris Galust, “Give Me Liberty”
The 2019 Gotham Awards will be held in New York City on December 2.
New photoshoot and exclusive interview with Aisling for Coveteur.
Aisling Franciosi is a name you’ll want to remember. Trust us.
When we first sit down with Aisling Franciosi at the Andaz Wall Street, we’re most struck by her willingness to, well…talk. It sounds ridiculous, especially in the context of an interview—after all, isn’t that the point?—but hear us out. Anyone who’s cracked open an archive issue of a glossy monthly (even the prestige titles) is familiar with the well-worn clichés of the celebrity profile. We open with what they ordered at lunch (so relatable!), followed by some benign activity engineered by a celebrity publicist, and finally come away with…not much at all.
So when Franciosi is not just down, but eager to speak on not just preparing for her role in The Nightingale—a period drama that tells the (admittedly harrowing) story of an Irish convict, Clare, who experiences sexual violence at the hands of British soldiers and enacts revenge—but also the conversation the film has sparked, color us impressed. It’s hardly breezy fashion interview fodder, but Franciosi is nonetheless eager to dig deep in discussing the complexities of her role and the responsibility she felt in telling Clare’s story.
And then there’s everything else. From her take on the CHANEL woman (hint: it’s not what you think) to recommendations for her latest favorite reads (the house’s autumn/winter 2019 Haute Couture collection is inspired by literary Paris) to the spots you might just find her at in the city (she recently moved to New York), we came away with a stacked reading list and a renewed perspective on some especially tricky territory.
Her process in developing her character in The Nightingale:
“I got the role and was looking at nine months before it actually shot, and that made me anxious. Retrospectively, it was a blessing, because you don’t often get that much time to prepare for a role. For a role like that of Clare, you really do need tons of time to be able to properly research all of the subject matters like sexual violence, violence against women, racially motivated violence, colonialism…to let that really sink in and feel like it’s a character, as opposed to going through the script and painting by numbers.
“I got to meet real victims, and also social workers working with women in centers for domestic abuse. After meeting these amazing women, it gave me a whole other well of empathy to pull from because they were so generous in sharing their stories with me.”
From Bafta award-winning writer Amanda Coe (The Trial Of Christine Keeler, Apple Tree Yard), DNA TV and director Charlotte Bruus Christensen comes a new three-part adaptation of the 1939 classic literary novel Black Narcissus, Rumer Godden’s iconic tale of sexual repression and forbidden love.
Gemma Arterton (The King’s Man, The Escape) leads the all-star cast in the role of Sister Clodagh. Joining Arterton is Alessandro Nivola (American Hustle, Chimerica) as Mr Dean, Aisling Franciosi (The Nightingale, I Know This Much Is True) as Sister Ruth, Diana Rigg (Game Of Thrones, Victoria) as Mother Dorothea, Jim Broadbent (Paddington, Paddington 2, The Iron Lady) as Father Roberts, Gina McKee (Catherine The Great, Bodyguard) as Sister Adela, Rosie Cavaliero (Prey, Unforgotten) as Sister Briony, Patsy Ferran (Tom And Jerry, Jamestown) as Sister Blanche, Karen Bryson (MotherFatherSon, Safe) as Sister Philippa and Dipika Kunwar as Kanchi who makes her television debut.
Charlotte Bruus Christensen makes her directorial debut having previously been Director of Photography on hit films such as Girl On A Train, A Quiet Place, Fences as well as DNA and BBC Films’ Far From The Madding Crowd.
Returning this haunting love story to its original setting in the 1930s, Black Narcissus follows Sister Clodagh (Arterton) and the nuns of St Faiths, who travel to Nepal to set up a branch of their order in the remote palace of Mopu.
In the unfettered sensuality of the so-called House of Women, Sister Clodagh finds herself increasingly attracted to the handsome and damaged land agent, Mr Dean (Nivola). But as the repressed memories of Clodagh’s past become entangled with the tragic history of Princess Srimati, history seems doomed to repeat itself.
Are there really ghosts here in the Himalayas, or are the nuns just succumbing to long-repressed primal desires? And which of them is prepared to die – or kill – for love?
Announcing the project, writer Amanda Coe says: “I’m thrilled to be adapting Black Narcissus for BBC One. It’s a truly extraordinary love story, as well as a brilliantly unsettling piece of 20th century gothic about the power of a place to get under your skin and the dangers of refusing to learn from history.”
Black Narcissus is a 3×60’ drama adaptation for BBC One produced by DNA TV and FX Productions. Executive Producers are Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich and Amanda Coe for DNA TV and FX Productions and Lucy Richer for the BBC. Filming starts in October in Jomsom, Nepal and Pinewood Studios, UK.
Black Narcissus was previously adapted for screen in 1947 by Powell and Pressburger and subsequently won two Oscars for Cinematography (Jack Cardiff) and Art Direction (Alfred Junge).
The Nightingale tops the nominations pool for film at this year’s Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards (AACTA).
The thriller, which debuted at Venice last year where it won a special jury prize, picked up 15 nods including best actress for Aisling, best film and best direction.
2019 AACTA Awards all nominations for The Nightingale:
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST FILM
HOTEL MUMBAI Basil Iwanyk, Gary Hamilton, Julie Ryan, Jomon Thomas – Hotel Mumbai Double Guess Productions
JUDY & PUNCH Michele Bennett, Nash Edgerton, Danny Gabai – Vice Media LLC, Blue-Tongue Films, Pariah Productions
THE KING Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Liz Watts, David Michôd, Joel Edgerton – Plan B Entertainment, Porchlight Films, A Yoki Inc, Blue-Tongue Films
THE NIGHTINGALE Kristina Ceyton, Bruna Papandrea, Steve Hutensky, Jennifer Kent – Causeway Films, Made Up Stories
RIDE LIKE A GIRL Richard Keddie, Rachel Griffiths, Susie Montague – The Film Company, Magdalene Media
TOP END WEDDING Rosemary Blight, Kylie du Fresne, Kate Croser – Goalpost Picture
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTION
HOTEL MUMBAI Anthony Maras – Hotel Mumbai Double Guess Productions
JUDY & PUNCH Mirrah Foulkes – Vice Media LLC, Blue-Tongue Films, Pariah Productions
THE KING David Michôd – Plan B Entertainment, Porchlight Films, A Yoki Inc, Blue-Tongue Films
THE NIGHTINGALE Jennifer Kent – Causeway Films, Made Up Stories
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTOR
Timothée Chalamet THE KING – Plan B Entertainment, Porchlight Films, A Yoki Inc, Blue- Tongue Films
Baykali Ganambarr THE NIGHTINGALE – Causeway Films, Made Up Stories
Damon Herriman JUDY & PUNCH – Vice Media LLC, Blue-Tongue Films, Pariah Productions
Dev Patel HOTEL MUMBAI – Hotel Mumbai Double Guess Productions
Hugo Weaving HEARTS AND BONES – Night Kitchen Productions
AACTA AWARD FOR BEST LEAD ACTRESS
Nazanin Boniadi HOTEL MUMBAI – Hotel Mumbai Double Guess Productions
Aisling Franciosi THE NIGHTINGALE – Causeway Films, Made Up Stories
Teresa Palmer RIDE LIKE A GIRL – The Film Company, Magdalene Media
Miranda Tapsell TOP END WEDDING – Goalpost Pictures
Mia Wasikowska JUDY & PUNCH – Vice Media LLC, Blue-Tongue Films, Pariah Productions
German actress Franka Potente will be making her directorial debut with “Home,” a California-set redemption drama starring Oscar-winning actress Kathy Bates, Jake McLaughlin, Aisling Franciosi and Lil Rel Howery.
Jonas Katzenstein and Maximilian Leo at leading German film production company Augenschein Filmproduktion developed the story and will produce together with Bac Films Prods.’ David Grumbach (“The Cured,” “The Leisure Seeker”), Leontine Petit and Erik Glijnis at the Dutch banner Lemming Films, and Christine Günther and Chevy Chen at German outfit Fireglory.
Bac Films has picked up international sales rights to “Home” and will distribute the film in France.
“Home” will tell the story of 40-year-old Marvin Hacks (McLaughlin), who comes back to his small Californian hometown after more than 20 years in prison, only to find out that his mother is terminally ill and that the locals have not forgotten the atrocity he committed. Despite the hostility of the people, Marvin tries to reclaim his place in society. He also takes a liking to Delta (Franciosi), unaware that she is part of the family of the person he killed.
“‘Home’ is a riveting story with rich characters and raw emotion that will mesmerize audiences around the world,” said Katzenstein and Leo, who added that Potente was a “skilled and visionary” director. The actress has starred in such films as “The Bourne Identity” and broke out internationally in Tom Tykwer’s “Run Lola Run.”
Grumbach described the project as a “very strong and sensitive story, carried by such a promising director.” He said: “Potente is bringing her European sensibility and feminine perspective to portray this man seeking redemption and the psyche of this small American town.”
Bac Films is looking to co-produce two ambitious English-language European films per year. The company is currently co-producing Fredric Jardin’s “Visceral,” with Faye Dunaway and Georgina Campbell. Besides “Home” and “Visceral,” Bac Films’ Cannes sales slate includes Sepideh Farsi’s animated feature, “The Siren,” and Kaouther Ben Hania’s sophomore outing, “The Man Who Sold His Skin.”
Hello and welcome to Aisling Franciosi Fan, your latest fansite dedicated to the beautiful and talented Irish actress Aisling Franciosi. You may know her as Katie Benedetto in the hit series ‘The Fall’ or as Clare Carroll in the movie ‘Nightingale’.
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