Cillian Murphy, Jennifer Connelly and filmmaker Claudia Llosa in Berlin for Aloft. Photo by Brian Brooks.
Peruvian filmmaker Claudia Llosa made her mark on the Berlin International Film Festival in 2009, winning the event's top prize—the Golden Bear—for her second film The Milk of Sorrows (La Teta Asustada). The film even went on to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language film. She returned with a short film in 2012 and is now back with her latest feature, Aloft, starring Jennifer Connelly, Cillian Murphy and Mélanie Laurent.
The Arctic provides a stark if dramatic backdrop to Aloft, an emotionally-charged feature that unfolds amidst a series of revealing flashbacks.
"As soon as I read the script, I knew I wanted to be involved," said Connelly in Berlin. "I thought the characters were wonderfully complicated and flawed and I just fell in love with Claudia (Llosa)."
Connelly plays Nana, a young woman trying to provide for her sons Ivan and Gully by working on a farm. The younger Gully's mental health is deteriorating. Murphy plays Ivan as an adult, a man who hasn't seen his mother since she left him during childhood. He is in a troubled marriage and finds solace caring for his falcons. His past surfaces after a woman who says she is a television journalist (Laurent) comes to his farm looking to track down his mother. She is apparently a follower of a cultish leader (William Shimell). Ivan decides to join the search and they embark on a journey through the frigid landscape.
Connelly in Aloft.
"If something is that moving on the page, there's a likelihood it will translate to the screen," said Cillian Murphy, echoing Connelly's sentiment. If there was a consistent thread throughout the conversation with Aloft's cast, it is that Llosa charmed them early on, soliciting an outpouring of emotion and devotion to the story. "I cried every time I read the script," added Laurent.
Audiences well beyond Berlin will get their chance to see for themselves. The film received a shot of good news in the lead-up to its premiere in competition here in the German capital. It secured distribution Stateside via Sony Pictures Classics. It is Llosa's first English-language feature.
"I think our responsibility is to raise questions, not provide all the answers," said Llosa. "We live in a time where we don't trust anymore or understand the process of channeling emotions and forgiveness."
As Ivan and his companion Jannia continue their journey, flirtation and sexual tension mounts. The Arctic setting provides moments of levity, but drama ensues when they eventually find Nana.
"I compare writing to sculpting from a rock—the material itself tells you were to go," said Llosa. "There's a point where these characters are not really characters anymore, they're people. I wanted their personalities to come through. It's important for humans to channel their emotions."