True story: A Night Of Terror In Poveglia — Five people from Colorado were rescued by Italian firefighters the night of the 16th of July, 2016, after they decided to spend the night on the famous haunted island of Poveglia, the location of the upcoming movie The Plague Doctor. They reached the island through a water taxi and decided to stay for the night, but as soon the darkness took over a presence started to haunt them, making them scream for help. A sailboat in the area overheard them and called the Italian authorities that came for their rescue.
Poveglia has a dark past that involves the black plague and madness: in the past people who were affected by the plague were brought by plague doctors to die. Legend says that you can still hear the haunting voices of the plague victims who perished many years before. Its story was also featured in an episode of Ghost Adventures…
The Plague Doctor is a psychological thriller set in Venice, with dark atmospheres, that is inspired by stories and legends tied in with the historical figure of the Plague Doctor, a mysterious Venetian Mask, and with Poveglia, an ancient island of the Venetian Lagoon, well known for its gruesome events.
SYNOPSIS — Devoid of memory, the young doctor Mattia has lived for years secluded in a cloistered monastery in the Venetian countryside. Although he does not know the exact reason, he knows he has made a horrible mistake in the past, when he was a practitioner in Venice, which led him to become estranged with reality. One day, he receives a letter from Valentina, the daughter of an old doctor named Richard, asking him to return to Venice to care for her father, who is affected by an unknown disease. Mattia decides to go, even if aware that he might face his past and his mistakes in Venice. During his journey, Mattia’s gondolier makes a stop in an ancient isle in the Venetian Lagoon, Poveglia. He tells him about how Poveglia was the scene of several events related to the history and culture of the Venetian Republic: timeless murky legends about the plague, madness and the plague doctor’s mask. In Poveglia, in fact, at the end of the seventeenth century, the plague broke out spreading through the entire lagoon. For this reason, Poveglia was used as a military hospital for plague victims, where those affected by the disease were taken and left there to die in solitude. In the twentieth century, a psychiatric hospital was built where patients claimed to hear haunting voices of the plague victims who had perished there many years before. In this same mental institution, the head physician plunged to his death from the bell tower, after claiming to hear the same voices. Mattia realizes his past is connected to the events that took place in Poveglia and to its history.
HISTORY OF THE ISLE OF POVEGLIA
In the Venetian lagoon lies an isle where in the past people who were affected by the plague were brought by plague doctors to die. Legend says that in the dawn of the 1900’s, a psychiatric hospital was built where patients claimed to hear the haunting voices of the plague victims who had perished there many years before. The head physician who worked in the asylum tried to discover why his patients were hearing voices. He couldn’t and as a result, became more and more violent with his patients, until he started to hear voices too. Those voices never left his head and brought him to madness until he jumped from the tower bell, killing himself.
WHAT IS A “PLAGUE DOCTOR”?
A plague doctor was a medical physician who treated those who had the plague. They were not normally professionally trained experienced physicians and often were second-rate doctors or young physicians trying to establish themselves. These doctors rarely cured their patients some doctors wore a beak-like mask which was filled with aromatic items. The masks were designed to protect them from the putrid air.
Emanuele Mengotti was born in 1986 in Venice, Italy. In 2012, he moved to Los Angeles, where he currently resides. In 2013 he was invited as a guest at UCLA in the directing course, where he collaborated in the production of students’ projects. In 2015 he directed his short film The Writer, selected at The Venice Film Week. In 2016 he worked on Hallucinaut, a short film produced by Terry Gilliam.
“From the window of the bedroom where I grew up I was able to see a gloomy isle that always fascinated me. It was Poveglia,” says Mengotti. “I was attracted by its dark silhouette in the fog and I started to learn about its story, a story of suffering, plague, madness and death. An interest was born in me, then turning into the need, to tell a story dedicated to this isle, and to the entire Venetian culture.”
THE ART DIRECTOR
Luca Nemolato has been working as a Concept Artist and Art Director with major companies and studios, such as Legacy Effects, Tinsley Studio, Method Studios, Encore and many more. Making a name for himself working on such projects as Independence Day Resurgence, The Conjuring, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Falling Skies, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay parts 1 & 2, Maleficent, and more. From 2016 he started to collaborate on The Plague Doctor as art director.
The Plague Doctor is a mind-bending thriller like no other — one that merges influences from masters like Kubrick, Lynch and Aronofsky. It combines a story telling affine to Black Swan, Shutter Island, Jacob’s ladder, Session 9, Memento, and many others. To better explore the mood and the atmosphere of The Plague Doctor, the director, along with a crew of local artists, worked and shot a teaser (that you can check out below) on the isle of Poveglia that got accepted in many film festivals in the trailer selection, such as Hollywood Independent Reel FF, IFFNoho, ARFF Berlin etc, winning awards and being screened in theaters around US like the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles, and other theaters in Europe.
The Plague Doctor is a work in progress. Mengotti locked the script, and currently collaborates with Nemolato on artistic development, focusing on the mood and style of the project, including costumes, masks and set decor. The project is coordinated by a Venetian production company, working closely with local artists and especially with the government for funding for the project. Meanwhile, they are seeking an international partner for funding, international distribution and marketing.
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