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Thriller Shot In the City of London

Date posted: 12.12.2012

Writer/Director Barnaby Southcombe's debut feature I, Anna stars Charlotte Rampling (Melancholia), Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects), Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes) and Hayley Atwell (Captain America). Shot on location in the capital, it is currently screening in cinemas cross the UK.

A psychological drama based on Elsa Lewin's novel of the same name, Rampling takes on the role of Anna Welles, a femme fatale who falls in love with a detective in charge of a murder case. Although the novel was based in New York, Southcombe moved the action to London.

Anna, a striking and enigmatic woman, reluctantly attends a speed dating event. At the point of giving up she is charmed by George Stone. Meanwhile world-weary detective, Bernie (Byrne), investigates a murder in a Barbican high-rise. A brief encounter with Anna near the building stirs his fascination.

Producer Felix Vossen explains that the creative team "wanted to make the kind of film we grew up watching in France and Germany and would still watch now. Wonderfully ambiguous and intimate crime films with great comediennes."

Southcombe decided to bring the film to London to cast a different spin on a familiar premise as well as showcasing the capital differently. With the aim of giving the film the look of a New York detective story or a French noir, the film-makers found the city of London to have the ideal architecture and feel, casting London as a character in itself.

"The novel is set in New York but I was quite keen to move everything to London," explains Southcombe. "It feels like New York has had the story of a detective who falls for a woman who is a suspect in a murder investigation. The London I wanted to represent is more one of feeling than recognisable landmarks."

The director was keen to present a London which isn't often captured on film: "I moved to the UK when I was eighteen and landed in London. From what I'd seen of it through films, it was something very quaint and villagey, familiar and cosy, yet this conflicted with my experiences of it."

The locations Southcombe favoured had very 60s and 70s isolated modern design that felt brutalist and concrete, with streets devoid of pedestrians and cars. One site that fit his vision was the Barbican, known for its concrete and rather foreboding, harsh architecture.

"The Barbican Centre is like Vatican City. It has its own police council, it's very tightly run and is all private land within the City."

Southcombe continued "I wanted to frame these characters in a landscape drained of colour and emotion. I wanted London to feel anonymous. It fit beautifully."

Director of Photography Ben Smithard explained that filming in London also presented certain challenges which they turned to their advantage. "We had only one day of sun out of 30 days of shooting, and it kind of suited us being moody and overcast. It actually gave me a greater latitude to grade it strongly and darker."

Another key location was Anna's home, which at script stage was a tiny one bedroom apartment. Production Designer Tom Burton elaborates: "It started off with her being in a modern council type apartment and I suggested we move her to a mansion block. What this conveyed was a woman keeping up appearances all the while living in a tiny flat behind this grand exterior. As I designed the apartment, I made it such that no two walls were parallel, all the lines are always pulling away from Anna, as she can't grasp onto anything solid."

I, Anna is in UK cinemas now, released by Artificial Eye.

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