Testament Of Youth is James Kent’s dramatisation of famed pacifist Vera Brittain’s earliest memoir. Starring Swedish actress Alicia Vikander as Brittain herself, the story chronicles her early years during World War I. It premiered at the London Film Festival last night, and we went along to meet the cast and crew and get the story.
The film sees Vera left behind at home while her fiancé Roland (Kit Harington), her brother Edward (Taron Egerton) and friends Victor (Colin Morgan) and Geoffrey (Jonathan Bailey) all leave for France to fight for their country. Desperate to keep her loved ones safe, she leaves university to become a nurse on the Front, and it’s there that she comes to understand the true horrors of war.
The cast were out in force on the red carpet to discuss the importance of this new adaptation. Talking to Empire, Merlin star Colin Morgan was keen to stress the relevance of Brittain’s memoir today and his view of the message behind the story.
“I think it’s the perfect time with the centenary of the First World War. Not just that though; the story is so inspirational because of what Vera went through as a young woman at that time, when a lot of her rights were denied. The most inspirational part of this film was what she endured, and the resilience after going through that. I think people could take a big lesson from the film that it’s worth fighting for what you believe in: don’t be put down by the most seemingly impossible situations. Nothing’s worth backing down on and I think that’s all very relevant for today.”
Director James Kent was also at the screening to present his first feature film. He talked enthusiastically about the crucial casting of the film’s title character.
“Alicia [Vikander] came free because of another film and I’m really glad she did it because I can’t imagine anyone else pulling off the film in the way that she did. I mean, this film is Alicia Vikander, it is Vera Brittain and the film will only ever be as good as the actress playing Vera Brittain. She certainly made my life easier and I think she did a very brilliant job.”
Talking to the other central star in Testament Of Youth, Kit Harington, Empire was curious to find out what he thought of playing a real-life figure. Did he feel any pressure in taking on the portrayal?
“No pressure, but definitely a responsibility. It only struck me a week into filming that I was playing a real person who had not died that many years ago, and who had so much written in evidence about what he was like and who he was. I still think now that the ghosts were very much hanging over the film and it’s an honour really to get to portray their personal story.”
Testament of Youth’s festivities last night ended a little early for some of the cast. Dominic West and Emily Watson, who played Vera’s parents in the film, both revealed that they’re due to start brand new projects as of today. Watson will be starting with a read-through for the BBC one-off drama A Song For Jenny, an adaptation of Gillian Nicholson’s memoir. The drama deals with the writer’s loss of her daughter in the 7/7 bombings and Watson expressed some nerves about the upcoming work, saying that, “I’m feeling quite intimidated by it actually- it’s so real, very recent and very painful so we’ll have to be careful.” That is due for broadcast in July 2015.
Meanwhile, West is working on the film Genius, and said that his very first shoot in the film will involve ‘playing Ernest Hemingway and catching marlin with Colin Firth.’ The film, directed by Michael Grandage, follows the work of book editor Max Perkins (Firth) and will feature other well-known actors such as Nicole Kidman and Guy Pearce.That’s due to be released sometime in the next year.
Testament of Youth also stars Hayley Atwell and Miranda Richardson, and it will hit UK screens on January 16, 2015.