Thursday, September 6, 2018

Sofka Zinovieff's "Putney"

Sofka Zinovieff studied social anthropology at Cambridge and carried out the research for her PhD in Greece. This marked the beginning of a lifelong involvement with the country.

She has lived in Moscow and Rome and worked as a freelance journalist and reviewer, writing mainly for British publications including The Telegraph Magazine, The Times Literary Supplement, The Financial Times, The Spectator, The Independent Magazine and The London Magazine.

After many years in Athens, she now divides her time between there and England. She is married and has two daughters.

Here Zinovieff dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Putney:
Putney should definitely be directed by a woman. Although one of the three central characters is male, we don’t want too much of the male gaze on Daphne’s young body. She is only 13 when she falls in love with 31-year-old Ralph and he has long been obsessed with her. My choice is the amazing New Zealander director, Jane Campion. Since The Piano (1993), she has shown she can do grand and intimate, imaginative and realistic. She has also done “romantic” in Bright Star (about Keats) and off-beat-beautiful-scary in Top of the Lake.

Campion would be ideal for capturing the contradictions in Putney’s two eras. Firstly, the 1970s, bohemian London household of Daphne as a child, where her father Ed is a writer and her mother Ellie a Greek activist. They live in what looks like seductively beautiful freedom in Putney, and Ralph is an up-and-coming composer who collaborates with Ed. The present day has Ralph and Daphne looking back on their relationship as a “romantic secret”.

Daphne is dark-haired, dark-eyed and half-Greek. In adulthood, she retains some of the grace and wildness of her childhood and is still slim and small-built. Aged 50, she has left behind decades of drug abuse and disastrous relationships to settle down as an artist with a day job. I would choose Penelope Cruz for the role, as I think she can combine the wild and powerful with the vulnerable. In Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Cruz plays a crazy, sexy artist who is also very emotional and I’d like that energy for Daphne, who doesn’t realise how much she has been hurt by the neglect and abuse in her youth. The child Daphne would have to be picked to resemble Cruz.

Ralph as a celebrated composer approaching 70 would be played by Hugh Grant. He has shown that he can leave behind his slightly saccharine rom-com past (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill etc) and give real depth and darkness to a character. He was excellent in A Very English Scandal, about the British MP Jeremy Thorpe. His suave, arrogant charm was such that he believed he could get away with anything – even trying to get his former gay lover murdered! Grant can bring out the charm of the successful, ageing Ralph Boyd, who is feted around the world for his music compositions. He can also show the self-deception of a man who will not admit that he has done anything wrong in seducing a child.

Jane is tall and blonde, and despite being a fit and slim 50-year-old, still finds it easy to remember her awkward, plump adolescence. Married with two student sons, she is a scientist and ostensibly successful and conventional. But she has secrets beneath the surface that even she finds hard to confront. I’d choose Laura Dern to play her. Dern can go from beautiful to “ordinary” in a blink, and from high-powered to insecure without a problem. I loved her intelligent acting in the series Big Little Lies. It is Jane who tries to persuade Daphne that the “secret love affair” was actually grooming, child abuse and rape and that Ralph should be reported to the police.
Visit Sofka Zinovieff's website.

--Marshal Zeringue