Text and photosby Kingdom County Productions
On Saturday, July 30, Hopkins Center Film presents Peter and John, the latest feature film by Vermont-based filmmaker Jay Craven–starring 2014 Golden Globe winner Jacqueline Bisset and Emmy winner and Tony nominee Gordon Clapp. As with previous Hop screenings of his films, Craven will be on hand for a post-show Q & A. The following article is adapted from Craven’s production company, Kingdom County Productions. Unlike many of Craven’s previous films, this one was not filmed in his home state. For a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the filming of Peter and John, go here.
Guy de Maupassant’s 19th century seaside novel, Pierre et Jean, is widely credited for changing the course of narrative fiction. The book introduced intense psychological complexity into its naturalistic depiction of a family brought to the breaking point through startling revelations.
Kingdom County director Jay Craven’s latest film is based on a screenplay he adapted from the Maupassant novel. The film stars 2014 Golden Globe winner Jacqueline Bisset (Day for Night, Bulllitt), Emmy winner and Tony nominee Gordon Clapp (NYPD Blue, Glengarry Glen Ross), Christian Coulson (Harry Potter: Chamber of Secrets, The Hours), Shane Patrick Kearns (Blue Collar Boys) and Diane Guerrero (Orange is the New Black).
As with his 2012 film, Northern Borders, Peter and John was produced through Craven’s Movies from Marlboro project, a partnership between KCP and Marlboro College, where 20 professionals mentor and collaborate with 30 students from 10 colleges who enroll at Marlboro for a film intensive semester that includes production of a feature film for international release.
Peter and John is set in 1872 Nantucket, after the demise of the whaling industry, before the rise of tourism, and in the wake of the still-reverberating Civil War. The film will tell the story of Peter Roland, a sensitive, sober, and sometimes brooding town doctor in his early 30s. Peter takes pleasure from a cozy and affectionate relationship with his strikingly beautiful mother, Julia, and he enjoys a playful camaraderie with his mischievous and sometimes reckless younger brother John.
One night at dinner, a courier arrives with news of a surprising large inheritance for John. Immediately, Peter darkens, suspecting that John’s benefactor, a bachelor aristocrat and family friend, had carried on an affair with his mother and was, in fact, John’s true father. Burdened by his suspicions, Peter can’t find the words or feelings to resolve his fears. He finds himself unexpectedly drawn towards a young woman, Lucia, who arrives on the island and knows of startling events in Peter’s past that he wishes to keep secret. But John also finds Lucia attractive. The young doctor becomes increasingly unsure of himself, descending into a fog as thick as the rolling mist that regularly engulfs his seaside home. What emerges is less a tale of jealousy than a series of cathartic realizations prompted by Peter’s crisis, forcing him to confront what former Brandeis University French literature professor Murray Sachs described as Peter’s furtive reckoning with “the hollowness and immaturity of the illusions by which he lived.”
Maupassant’s novel was widely heralded by critics and writers – and it was cited as an influence by Tolstory, Nabokov, and van Gogh – for the beauty of its images and its potent themes of family, class, legacy, legitimacy, and self-discovery.
“Monsieur de Maupassant has never before been so clever,” wrote Henry James who called Pierre et Jean a “masterly little novel.”