"The Isle of the Dead" is, perhaps, one of the most well-known, loved and enigmatic paintings of all time. It inspired many artists, including the legendary Russian musician Sergei Rachmaninoff, who wrote a symphonic poem based on a reproduction of the canvas. The meaning of the work remains however a mystery until now. And that is why the Italian filmmaker Alberto Bona and British silent film accompanist Costas Fotopoulos will create a modern silent film adaptation, aiming to solve the riddle through a highly creative cross-collaboration. The film will be an imaginary journey into Rachmaninoff’s mind at the time of the composition of the music, evoking the sense of dislocation linking the composer’s long depression and the fixation with the picture.

‘Die Toteninsel’. The original painting was painted by the underrated Swiss painter Arnold Böcklin, who produced five different versions in the late 19th century. Prints of the work were very popular in central Europe in the early 20th century so that Böcklin exercised an influence on Surrealists, most notably Max Ernst, Giorgio De Chirico and Salvador Dalì, with this latter using the powerful iconography of the cypress trees in many of his works.

Böcklin himself never gave a real explanation of the canvas, so this is the filmmaker’s personal take of the enigma starting with the variation of the title from “The Isle of the Dead” to an even more evocative “The Isle of Death”. Interestingly, Rachmaninoff wrote the music inspired by a black and white print. Perhaps he would have not written the music at all, should he have seen the picture in colour: that is why the film will be in black and white, also to reflect the keys of the piano, but most importantly it will be shot using celluloid.

Celebrating film renaissance. 2014 has seen a surprising return of the film media, with Disney filming the new Star Wars saga in celluloid - virtually rescuing Kodak from bankruptcy. To celebrate this film renaissance, 'The Isle of Death’ will be shot in 16mm.

Seeking crowd funding success. Film is still an expensive business, so the creators of the project decided to seek funding from the Kickstarter community where ‘together, creators and backers make projects happen’. Successful stories most notably include those of filmmakers Zach Braff and Spike Lee. It is still fresh the completion of the funding for Italian film manufacturers Ferrania, which didn't simply meet their Kickstarter goal, but soared right past it. The production of ‘The Isle of Death’ aims to embrace this new wave of analogue enthusiasm and to start shooting at the beginning of 2015. The campaign begun well as it has been already inserted amongst Staff Picks and New & Noteworthy projects. Among the first backers for ‘The Isle of Death’ there is Film Ferrania themselves, who announced their backing via Twitter. So far, the project has received positive reception for its quality: the overall feeling is that this is a classic story that needs to be told.

About The Artists:

Alberto Bona[1] is a versatile actor/filmmaker who delivers his flamboyant performances all around Italy and UK. He also collaborated to the staging of several operas by Giampaolo Zennaro, who eventually directed him in the play Tremamondo. Film credits as an actor include Norbert, Cat’s Smack, award winning Circumstances by Marco Sanges, Dermo Sluchaetsa by BFI award nominated director Rob Brown and BIFA award nominated L’Assenza by Jonathan Romney. Alberto adopted nome de plume Arepo to produce, film and edit several experimental short films in 16mm including Surrealismo Italiano and Contemplazione.

Costas Fotopoulos[2] is based in London and works internationally as a concert and silent film pianist, and as a composer and arranger for film, the stage and the concert hall. He studied piano at the Royal Academy of Music, London, and at the Juilliard School, New York. He has given many solo and chamber performances in this country and across the world. His acclaimed debut solo piano album, released by JCL Records, features works by Rachmaninoff as well as his own “Toccata”. He has recorded repertoire for BBC Radio and the piano solo work by Nicholas Sackman, Cross hands, for the Metier label. Costas won a Scholarship Award at the International Johannes Brahms Competition.

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