We Need to Talk About Kevin triumphs at London Film Festival

Critics reward Lynne Ramsay's interpretation of Lionel Shriver's novel.

The cinematic adaptation of Lionel Shriver's 2003 novel We Need to Talk About Kevin has been named Best Film at the London Film Festival Awards.

Reviewing the film for the New Statesman, Ryan Gilbey wrote:

Readers of Shriver's novel were divided between those who saw the character as a monster and those who distrusted his mother's control of the novel. It's this tension the picture exploits, rather skilfully.

Starring Tilda Swinton, John C Reilly and Ezra Miller, the film recounts the events leading up to a high-school massacre and was directed by Glaswegian Lynne Ramsay. John Maddon, chair of the jury, described the film as "a sublime, uncompromising tale of the torment that can stand in the place of love". It was singled out ahead of a strong shortlist which included Terrence Davis's The Deep Blue Sea and Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist.

Ramsay, whose previous films include Ratcatcher and Morvern Callar, is no stranger to awards having previously been the recipient of two Cannes Prix de Jury prizes. She was hailed by Tanya Seghatchian, head of the BFI Film Fund, as "one of the great cinematic visionaries". We Need to Talk About Kevin is her third full-length feature.

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Listening to recordings from the Antarctic, I felt I could hear the earth groan

The Science Hour on the BBC World Service.

A weekend of listening to the radio news ­revealed nothing but sounds of the sucker-punched going through their pockets in a panic and repeating, “I thought you had the keys.” So, never was talk of “a perfectly flat area of just whiteness” more alluring. The oldest Antarctic ice yet recorded was recently found. “For millions of years,” the presenter Roland Pease assured listeners  (25 June, 9am), “snow has been falling, snow on snow, all the while trapping bubbles of air and other chemical traces of climate . . . insights into the ice ages and warm periods of the past.” How was this ice located? “The finding part is pretty easy – you just go there and start shovelling, and ice comes up,” the lead geologist, Jaakko Putkonen, said.

There it was, buried under a layer of dirt “in barren wastelands” high in the middle of Antarctica. An “incredibly mountainous and remote and . . . quite hideous region, really”, Pease said, though it was sounding pretty good to me. The world dissolved into a single, depthless tone. Then Pease mentioned the surprising fizzing of this ancient ice – trapped air bubbles whooshing as they melt. Which is perhaps the thing you least expect about ice regions and ice caps and glaciers: the cacophony. Thuds and moans. Air that folds and refolds like the waving of gigantic flags. Iced water sleeping-dragonishly slurping and turning.

On Friday Greenpeace posted a video of the pianist Ludovico Einaudi giving a haunting performance on a floating platform to mark an imminent meeting of the OSPAR Commission, as it decided on a proposal to safeguard 10 per cent of the Arctic Ocean. Einaudi looked occasionally stunned by the groaning around him. A passing glacier popped and boomed like the armies of Mordor, ice calving from its side, causing mini-tsunamis. When last year I spent some time at the remote Eqi Glacier in Greenland, close to the ice cap, local people certainly spoke of the ice as if it were living: “It’s quiet today,” delivered as though gazing at the fractious contents of a Moses basket.

“This huge cake of ice, basically flat”, Putkonen said, perhaps longing for a moment of deep-space silence, for peaceful detachment. He wasn’t the only one being forced to reappraise a landscape very differently.

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 30 June 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit lies