By Shelby Fielding (Lubbock, Texas)
Filmmaking is a subject of subjectivism. An issue that allows many to form opinions from their perspective, to develop an articulated response off of your feelings, tastes, and your personal relations to the narratives symbolic message. As a film critic, we appreciate this aspect of filmmaking because it allows no one to be wrong or right when stating their opinion on a movie, but instead they are defined as credible or uncredible based upon their cognitive reasoning for forming their opinion. This explanation allows me to start this review by stating that Eric D. Howell’s Voice from the Stone is dreadfully boring, and serves as a mediocre attempt at creating a suspenseful thriller that evokes emotion. Voice from the Stone focuses on a narrative set in 1950s Tuscany, where an earnest nurse is called to the aid of a young boy who has refused to speak since the passing of his mother from a severe illness. Instead, he chooses to listen to the voices he hears in the stone. This Hitchcock fairytale of sorts creates an attractive setting and format for an intriguing story, but it fails to crossover due to some nonsense decision on how to build its characters.
Saturated with gothic imagery and unacceptably drained of any suspense. Voice from the Stone introduces itself in a drastic way, opening with a young woman saying goodbye to her son in a melodramatic scene lends to the rest of ninety-four minute run time to portray itself as convoluted. This film attempts to provide an intriguing and layered character in Verena (Emilia Clarke), seeking to characterize her as solemn, mature, and emotionally relatable due to her loneliness. Instead, she jumps off the screen as an arrogant and insensitive woman who fails to even attempt at understanding the child in need. Her character conflicts with itself in the second act when she begins to open up and let her emotions flow freely in a positive manner. This character arc is never utilized to its full potential due to the lack of pacing presented by Eric D. Howell as a director. He chooses to show the first shots of the film in a quick timing almost as if we’re jumping straight into the narrative.
With little set up before Verena’s arrival to this estate, the pacing transitions to long takes upon the setting itself and not the characters themselves as if the location is more substantial to the story than the characters relationships and interactions are. With a numerous amount of random establishing shots used to invoke a minuscule amount of visual storytelling that falls flat due to the unimportance of this cliché scenery. With this lackluster direction and lethargic screenplay by Andrew Shaw, the performances don’t help much as well. Emilia Clarke is acceptable in her portrayal, but it feels as if she is being compressed or rushed in her performance. Her emotions are rushed just as the screenplay is, not allowing her to display her full range as an actress as she’s shown before in her career (a.k.a Game of Thrones). This reliance on scenery comes back into the fold with Edward Dring’s portrayal of Jakob.
The screenplay uses multiple location, activity, and furniture devices to provide characterization. Recognizing his character is not allowed to speak, it’s a genuinely great idea that falls flat due to the cliché idea of using a piano as a connection between characters. Marton Csokas performance is averagely satisfying as well with a reliance on his deceased wife providing characterization. The narrative continued to surprise though in its third and final act. With an attempt at a thought provoking finality that falls flat due to the empty void of emotional interest placed in the film. This third act is enthralling for the most part with genuine suspense and chilling imagery. However, it neglects to associate these thrilling directional techniques with the first two acts. Showcasing how rushed and perplexed the narrative of Voice from the Stone truly is.
Acceptable performances, for the most part, is the only aspect of this film that carries it throughout the entirety of its runtime. With lackadaisical direction and almost maze-like script writing that fails to create an initial point for its narrative. Though Voice from the Stone fails to create a lasting impact with its filmmaking, it reminds us that film itself should be held accountable when it falls flat, which is possibly the intentions of Voice from the Stone, to abruptly exhibit its flaws from its introduction as if to expose itself for its blemishes. If so I appreciate that Voice from the Stone is upfront and honest with its presentation of a muddled script.
[referring to Jakob’s mother; to Verena]
Lilia: We nursed her day and night, me and the boy.
Klaus: [to Verena] His mother, she died. My son has not spoken since.