The movie Bel Canto arrives at unsettling times. Even when the book on which it is based on, Ann Patchett's novel of the same name, was first published back in 2001 in the midst of America's worst terrorist attack, this story seems today as relevant as ever.
“Bel Canto” centers on Roxane Coss, a famous American soprano, who travels to South America to give a private concert at the birthday party of a Japanese mogul. The festivities are interrupted by guerrillas demanding the release of their imprisoned comrades. "A lengthy standoff ensues, and as talks drag on bonds are formed between hostages and captors" is how Brent Lang of Variety summarizes the main theme of the story.
The story follows a Japanese mogul (played by Ken Watanabe in the movie version) as he ventures to South America for a prospective business venture. While there, he attends a lavish party where his favorite opera singer Roxane Coss (Julianne Moore) is set to perform. During Roxane’s set, however, a group of gun-wielding, anti-government rebels storm the event and take hostages in the name of freeing their imprisoned peers.
"After a few tense, bloody exchanges between opposing sides (and as media attention swarms outside the estate’s gates), the hostages and their captors form a peculiar bond, discovering their shared humanity in the process" explains Joey Nolfi, beat writer of EW.
Julianne Moore, playing the protagonist role, strikes a chord of romance and tension.
“We need to free our brothers and sisters. We will not surrender to these government criminals…. We need her now more than ever,” the guerrilla leader says in the preview, referencing the power of Roxane’s voice (dubbed by real-life soprano Renée Fleming in the movie), which he plans to project from inside their self-made fortress as a means to draw attention to their cause. “When they hear the beauty of your voice, perhaps they will find a solution.”
Originally published in 2001, Patchett’s novel was inspired by the 1996 crisis at the Japanese embassy in Lima, Peru, which resulted in the deaths of 14 members of the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, two soldiers, and one hostage.
Bel Canto opens in a limited number of theaters beginning Sept. 14, followed by an on-demand release on Sept. 21. Watch the film’s full trailer below.