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B.C.’s Atom Egoyan intertwines opera, film in deeply personal ‘Seven Veils’

Director’s latest being screened at the 30th Victoria Film Festival
Amanda Seyfried stars in Atom Egoyan’s “Seven Veils”, the opening film for the Victoria Film Festival. (Amanda Matlovich)

The Victoria Film Festival is set to mark its 30th anniversary with a theatrical opening night featuring acclaimed director Atom Egoyan’s latest masterpiece, “Seven Veils.”

Set against the backdrop of Richard Strauss’ opera “Salome”, the film unfolds an emotional exploration of trauma, power dynamics and the complexity of relationships. In the film, the opera’s director Jeanine (Amanda Seyfried) is thrust into the daunting task of remounting her recently deceased mentor and ex-lover’s infamous, sexually-charged production. The opera’s familial themes of loss and unsettling power dynamics resurface trauma from her past, unravelling the threads of young Jeanine’s life.

What makes this screening particularly special is Egoyan’s personal connection to Victoria, where he was raised (his first published review ever was in Monday Magazine).

The Cairo-born director explained the story is “entirely rooted in Victoria.” It delves into a deeply personal narrative inspired by Egoyan’s adolescent experiences and his first love, who he later discovered was a victim of abuse by her father.

“It’s going to be really emotional to bring it back to Victoria,” he told Monday Mag.

Egoyan also has a deep connection to the opera “Salome”, the first opera he ever directed in 1996.

The film’s inception arose during the opera’s seventh remount.

“[Seven Veils] has been brewing for a while, there are hints in it in some of the other films I’ve done, but it really came to fruition when I found out that we were going to do this remount of the opera. At that point I started thinking, wouldn’t it be great if I could actually shoot something like a drama about the people who were putting the opera on? Also wouldn’t it be great if I could deal with this issue of retelling the story, but find a different perspective and also talk about a lot of the issues I was seeing around me: people appropriating stories, people behaving badly in the artistic setting.”

“I think when people see films, they want to enter into worlds they haven’t seen before. I hadn’t seen this world represented before, around the production of an opera but also the politics and all the aspirations of people having different dreams and fantasies,” he said.

Director Atom Egoyan produced Salome for the Canadian Opera Company (COC) and Vancouver Opera in 1996 and 1997. His latest film “Seven Veils” tells a layered narrative of a fictional remount of the opera. (Ulysse del Drago)

Power dynamics in relationships feature heavily in the film, which goes back to the main story of Salome herself, Egoyan said. For those unfamiliar with the story, Salome, daughter of Herodias, becomes increasingly subjected to inappropriate advances by her step-father King Herod all while falling into an obsessional love with John the Baptist. It builds to an uneasy climax, where she agrees to dance for Herod in return for the John the Baptist’s head on a platter.

Egoyan wrestled with the question of why Salome committed this incredibly violent act. He offers a new interpretation through Jeanine’s journey to address her trauma through the opera.

“Jeanine really feels that that’s her responsibility to herself is to reclaim that story and to make it hers,” he said.

“From the very beginning, when we first put it on, I wasn’t just playing her [Salome] as a femme fatale, as most productions tend to do that. I tried to investigate what was in her background that created this extreme request she makes and I felt that there were other layers to that. I couldn’t rewrite the opera obviously but I felt that through this script I could go further. It was just a very unusual opportunity to retell the story.”

Egoyan praised Seyfried’, whom he had previously worked with on “Chloe”, and saw her as the perfect fit to bring the character to life alongside real-life opera singers, a decision he describes as a “risk” but an interesting way to tell the story.

Attending the opening night at the Victoria Film Festival will be a chance for Egoyan to share with the audience his story behind creating the film.

Egoyan said that while there are more film festivals now than in past decades, they remain important places to showcase work and have a dialogue with the audience.

“I wouldn’t be where I am without festivals,” he said. “You really learn what plays and what doesn’t play and that’s a great privilege.”

Following Victoria, the film will make its international premiere at the Berlin Festival, where the opera first premiered. “I’m dying to see how it plays out in Berlin, the opera capital of the world,” Egoyan said.

The opening night of the Victoria Film Festival will be tropical-themed.

Other highlights of the fest include a family-friendly screening of Ernest and Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia where PJs are encouraged on Feb. 11.

Eric McCormack, star of NBC’s Will & Grace, will be at the Vic Theatre on Feb. 3 to share insights into his career and top local short films will be airing at Blue Bridge Theatre on Feb. 10.

And of course, for those looking to explore the world of opera, politics, aspirations, dreams, and fantasies, “Seven Veils” promises a cinematic experience like no other. Find all the details on

Sam Duerksen

About the Author: Sam Duerksen

Since moving to Victoria from Winnipeg in 2020, I’ve worked in communications for non-profits and arts organizations.
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