No stranger to playing not-so-upstanding knights in shining armor, Jaime Lannister himself, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, has boarded "Virtue," a medieval gothic horror movie that HanWay Films is taking to the European Film Market. Founded in 1999, HanWay is a British sales, distribution, and marketing company that's managed to get a pretty eclectic batch of films made over the years. Their output ranges from celebrated documentaries ("Buena Vista Social Club," "Lost in La Mancha") to Oscar-nominated period dramas ("An Education," "Brooklyn," "Carol") to a bevy of auteur projects from the likes of David Cronenberg ("A Dangerous Method"), Takashi Miike ("13 Assassins"), Jim Jarmusch ("Only Lovers Left Alive"), and many more.
If that's not enough to get you sitting up and taking notice, know that "Virtue" further pairs Coster-Waldau with Romola Garai, the star of "Atonement," "Suffragette," and one of the best BBC series you've never seen, Abi Morgan's 1950s-set TV journalism drama "The Hour." In a statement (via The Hollywood Reporter), HanWay Films CEO Gabrielle Stewart notes that, traditionally, fairy tales and stories from the Middle Ages "present an elemental world that reinforces the patriarchal order with knights in shining armor saving damsels in distress." In contrast to that, "'Virtue' takes you on a thrilling and scary ride, subverting this world and challenging the gender and power structures it protects."
Well, they had my curiosity, but now they have my attention. Here's everything we know so far about "Virtue."
What Is Virtue About?
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau will star in "Virtue" as Sir Peter, a knight who returns to England, circa 1350, after years of fighting in wars abroad with his teenage son and wartime comrade, only to find their home in the grips of the Black Death (aka the 14th-century bubonic plague pandemic or the Plague). Upon upsetting the locals by stopping an accused witch from being burnt alive, Sir Peter aspires to win back their favor by setting off to rescue Fraya (Romola Garai, pictured above), a woman who vanished in what is believed to be a haunted forest. Except, when Peter and his men find Fraya and her "possessed" daughter Ludella, it — shockingly — turns out they might not be so keen on returning to a settlement gripped by superstition and run by men that are determined to blame women for all their woes.
By the sound of it, "Virtue" shares a lot in common with the modern wave of progressive period folk horror movies (e.g. "The Witch," "Apostle"), positing life with the "sinister forces" — as the plot synopsis from THR describes them — that reside within the forest as an intimidating yet viable and even preferrable alternative to living in a repressed, patriarchal, medieval society. Worthwhile medieval horror movies are in relative short supply so far as contemporary releases go (with exceptions like Jordan Downey's "The Head Hunter"), so perhaps "Virtue" can help lead the charge to change that.
The Virtue Cast And Crew
Joanna Coates, who (per THR) picked up the Michael Powell award at the Edinburgh Film Festival for her 2014 "Hide & Seek," is calling the shots on "Virtue" from a script by actor/writer Sam Hoare ("The English Game"). Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Steve Bakken, and Joe Derrick are producing for Coster-Waldau's Ill Kippers production label, with James Brown and Matthew James Wilkinson joining HanWay Films as executive producers.
Coster-Waldau and Romola Garai are the only actors formally attached to star in "Virtue" at the time of writing, though there are at least three other key roles (Peter's son and war companion, along with Ludella) that stand to be filled in the foreseeable future. That's assuming the movie secures the financing it needs to move forward at the European Film Market, which hopefully it will given HanWay Films' track record of success. It definitely has the potential to be one of the more noteworthy projects Coster-Waldau has been involved with as an actor since "Game of Thrones" came to an end.
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