The opening film of the 64th Festival

Keira Knightley (Cecilia)Atonement – directed by Joe Wright, starring James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Romola Garai, Saoirse Ronan and Vanessa Redgrave – will open the 64th Venice Film Festival, to be held at the Lido di Venezia from 29th August to 8th September 2007, directed for the fourth time by Marco Müller and organised by the Fondazione La Biennale di Venezia, chaired by Davide Croff. Produced by co-chairmen of Working Title Films Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, and Paul Webster, the screenplay is by Christopher Hampton adapted from the bestselling novel by Ian McEwan.  The film will be presented in competition with a world premiere on the evening of 29th August in the Sala Grande of the Palazzo del Cinema.

The decision to open the 64th edition with Atonement, the second film directed by Joe Wright (his first being Pride & Prejudice), confirms the pioneering vocation of the Venice Film Festival and its ability to work as a true “talent scout” festival. Intercepting the most innovative developments in the film world as and when they happen, and revealing the new trends and currents in contemporary cinema, the Festival discovers and presents the protagonists of cinema of the future. Atonement will be released in UK on 14th September, in the US on 7th December and in Italy on 21st September.  Universal Pictures International distributes the film internationally.

The director of the 64th Venice Film Festival, Marco Müller, has declared: "In the year of its 75th anniversary, the Festival must look to the future. For the first time in its history, the opening film is the work of a young director. A film that the selecting committee has unanimously considered – in terms of emotive and visual power – to be even greater than some of the major films of many confirmed directors".

The film’s story commences in the English summer of 1935, the hottest day of the year. In the looming shadow of World War II Briony Tallis and her family live a life of wealth and privilege in their enormous Victorian Gothic mansion. As the family gathers the combination of the oppressive heat and long suppressed emotions coming to the surface create an ominous sense of threat and danger. Briony, a fledgling writer, is a girl with a vivid imagination. Through a series of catastrophic misunderstandings she accuses Robbie Turner, the housekeeper’s son and lover of her sister Cecilia, of a crime he did not commit. This accusation destroys Robbie and Cecilia’s new found love and dramatically alters the course of all their lives forever.

The book Atonement has won numerous literary awards: the Commonwealth Prize in 2002, the Smith Literary prize in 2002, the National Book Critics’ Circle Fiction Award in 2003, the Los Angeles Times Prize for Fiction in 2003 and the Santiago Prize for the European Novel in 2004. A number of novels by Ian McEwan have already been adapted for the silver screen, including Enduring Love (by Roger Michell in 2004 presented at the 61st Venice Film Festival), The Comfort Of Strangers (by Paul Schrader in 1990) and The Cement Garden (by Andrew Birkin in 1993 which won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival).

Atonement is a Universal Pictures presentation in association with StudioCanal and Relativity Media, A Working Title Production.  Starring James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Romola Garai, Saoirse Ronan and Vanessa Redgrave.  The film is directed by Joe Wright and produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Paul Webster with executive producers Richard Eyre, Robert Fox, Ian McEwan, Debra Hayward and Liza Chasin.  The screenplay is by Christopher Hampton adapted from the novel by Ian McEwan.

As well as being focused on its history, the Festival’s attention is focused on the protagonists of the cinema of the future, through its ability to make sense of the past by means of retrospectives and ever-new events. The previous announcements of the 75th anniversary celebrations also indicated this, stating that there will be a "Spaghetti Westerns" retrospective and an event dedicated to Alexander Kluge, a director who has won numerous awards in Venice. And of course it was decided that Zhang Yimou, the film-maker who has won the highest number of major prizes in the history of the Venice Film Festival, would be asked to chair the jury of Venezia 64.

The presence of Atonement stresses an important trend in the most recent editions of the Festival: once again, a major production has chosen the Venice Film Festival as the ideal venue to promote a film outside its home country, and as a fundamental means of promotion for the Oscars. Films presented in Venice in the past three editions of the Festival directed by Marco Müller have led to an impressive 51 Oscar nominations.