A ‘medievalist’ by passion, and a filmmaker by craft, Sarah’s career is marked by stories told through the lens of history. Her award-winning WWII film MENSCHEN, streams on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play. Her screenplay HEARD was a quarterfinalist with American Gem. An alumna of Iceland’s Transatlantic Talent Lab, she has worked on HBO’s CINEMA VERITAE, and Chloe Zhao’s THE RIDER. Sarah is the owner of Dog and Rose Media and is presently writing a novel involving the characters in KNIGHT TO QUEEN.
The global pandemic was a surreal for many filmmakers as productions and layoffs abounded. A text from our DP, David Grauberger with a call to action for a stylized period drama period in anamorphic CinemaScope was even more surreal. At the time, I was two years into research on the civil war dividing 15th century France for a novel. The mystery surrounding Queen Isabeau’s captivity and pivotal decision to pick a side offered a rich narrative to compliment David’s cinematic quest to test the limits of the newly released RED KOMODO.
Chess and the moving image go hand in hand. Ingmar Bergman’s classic THE SEVENTH SEAL, centers on a knight playing chess with Death. Netflix’s QUEEN’S GAMBIT, renewed appreciation for chess in younger audiences. While the classic board game has evolved numerous times over the centuries, strong metaphors of war and strategy remain inherent to the game. In late medieval France, chess was a pastime of the elite. The parallels between the powerful pieces on the board and their real life counterparts is central to KNIGHT TO QUEEN.
In KNIGHT TO QUEEN, we evoke a crisis of conscience for Queen Isabeau over the moves she instigates. True to the contemporary account, Queen Isabeau schemes to visit Marmoutier Abbey on the Loire River when the Duke of Burgundy arrives in force and turns the tables on her captors. David Grauberger and I were influenced by the cinematography of Adam Akapaw in MACBETH and THE KING. We challenged ourselves to tease ‘epic’ out of every frame, while working with a reduced cast and crew on a Covid-compliant set.
Although KNIGHT TO QUEEN was originally concieved as silent film, I still wrote a point of view voice-over for Queen Isabeau to be the cerebral heartbeat of the film. Nearly a year after shooting, Julie Sweum reprised her on-screen role as Queen Isabeau voicing the Queen‘s unease for English language audiences. With the French translation from Corentin Donneaux, I reunited with my long-time filmmaking partner and native-French speaker, Anastasia Cummings, to cast Elsa Pérusin to voice Queen Isabeau in French. In a remote recording session over Zoom between France and the US, Elsa performed and recorded her lines in real time. In post, David Baud colored the film in an antique gold palette with the color green representing the Queen’s tension. KNIGHT TO QUEEN’s score composed by my longtime composer, Daniel Vendt, establishes haunting tones through solos from many period instruments of the era.
The journey of making KNIGHT TO QUEEN has been informed by strong collaborations at every stage of production. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to the historians and medievalists who have informed and advised our production from around the world, as well as to the cast and crew of old and new friends who have leant their expertise and critical eyes to help me realise my vision for KNIGHT TO QUEEN or La Reine Dépouillée.
Sarah R. Lotfi
WRITER / DIRECTOR