Thursday, June 2, 2022

Marty Ambrose's "Forever Past"

Marty Ambrose is the award-winning author of a historical mystery trilogy: Claire's Last Secret, A Shadowed Fate, and Forever Past, all set around the Byron/Shelley circle in nineteenth-century Italy. Her fiction has earned starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, as well as a gold medal for historical fiction in the Florida Writers Association's Literary Palm Awards.

Here Ambrose shares her vision for an adaptation of Forever Past:
I would love to see a one-woman tour de force film of my novel, Forever Past, the final installment in the Claire Clairmont mystery trilogy. This book is really the story of Claire’s search for her lost daughter, Allegra, conceived out of wedlock with English poet, Lord Byron, and it is told in her words. For so long, Claire was the missing voice in the Byron/Shelley circle, eclipsed by the more famous members of this glittering literary group, and it would be fitting to see her take the center of a cinematic interpretation--alone.

I’ve always been fascinated by films with a single actor who is the lynchpin for making a movie captivating and intense, much like the vintage Vincent Price movie, An Evening with Edgar Allen Poe. I’ve seen this film many times, and it never grows old as he evokes the sinister world of Gothic horror. In his role, Price narrates four of Poe’s short stories and, with his bravura performance, he is mesmerizing during the entire film. No other actors are needed. No complex setting is required. No musical score is necessary.

In that vein, Helena Bonham-Carter would be my choice for Claire. She has played historical characters (think Room with a View) with the same passionate, impetuous nature and, now as an older actor, she also possesses the wistful wisdom that comes with age. I think she would not only embody the spirit of Claire but, also, be able to carry the film singlehandedly with her charismatic presence.

The movie would begin with Bonham-Carter as Claire at the end of the book, when she is in a garden outside Livorno, about to learn whether her daughter is still alive. She then begins to tell the story of Forever Past, speaking directly to the camera as she creates the atmospheric tale of what transpired to bring her to this point. As she relates the details of her quest that took her to Ravenna, the Convent of Bagnacavallo and, eventually, Livorno, she explores how each exotic locale revealed betrayals by people whom she loved and trusted. Her dearest friend Trelawny, had hid his role in Allegra’s life, the abbess at the Bagnacavallo convent lied to her about her role in Allegra’s disappearance, and her stalwart police ally hid important details about Allegra’s fate from her. Still, Claire prevailed and, in her dialog, Bonham-Carter would reveal a woman of resolve, deep feeling, and vulnerability.

In the course of Bonham-Carter’s monologue, I would also have her read aloud the part of Forever Past which contains the fictional letters of Pietro Gamba—the brother of Lord Byron’s last mistress—who bore witness to Byron’s final days in Greece when he died in the cause of Greek independence. As she recites passages based on Byron’s actual words, I would shift to a male actor’s voiceover, played by classical actor, Ciaran Hinds, to convey the world of men at war, from which Claire was excluded. Hinds would not be visible—only audible.

At the end of the film, Bonham-Carter will turn to a shadowy, unfocused figure who emerges from a small villa, as she utters Claire’s final word at the end of the book: Allegra?

Has Claire’s journey led to a satisfying conclusion? I can’t reveal that...
Visit Marty Ambrose's website.

--Marshal Zeringue