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Banking panic and sex classic inspire film "360"

Screenwriter Peter Morgan arrives at the closing night screening of "Hereafter" at the 48th New York Film Festival
Screenwriter Peter Morgan arrives at the closing night screening of "Hereafter" at the 48th New York Film Festival

By Jeffrey Hodgson

TORONTO (Reuters) - The global financial crisis and a 111-year-old play about sexual intrigue helped inspire the latest film by "The Queen" screenwriter Peter Morgan, in which characters from different global cities find themselves interlinked by good and bad choices.

"360", which had its world debut at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday and will open the London Film Festival in October, follows characters ranging from a Slovakian sex worker to a Brazilian photographer as they travel through places as diverse as Vienna and Denver.

While romance, infidelity and friendship are major themes, Morgan said the story sprang partly from seeing how the banking crisis of 2008 fed upon itself, with bad news from one lender or country having a domino effect on others.

"I really don't want this film ever to be thought of as a metaphor for the banking crisis, but there's no doubt that's what I was thinking of when I wrote it," he reporters in Toronto.

The film also drew inspiration from Arthur Schnitzler's "La Ronde", a play that scandalized Europe at the start of the 20th century with its frank depiction of characters moving from one sexual partner to another.

What interested Morgan was the way the fate of the play's characters intertwines and comes full circle, an increasingly relevant theme in an age of the Internet, air travel, flu pandemics and global commerce.

"I wanted to write something that reflected the post-Internet world, and the way in which we're all linked. And I thought the best way to do that was through romance and through individual choices," said Morgan, whose scripts for "The Queen" and "Frost/Nixon" were both nominated for Oscars.

The film stars Jude Law as a lonely British businessman seeking to meet an Eastern European prostitute, Rachel Weisz as a married woman having an affair with a younger man, and Anthony Hopkins as a recovering alcoholic on the hunt for his missing daughter.

For Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles, who received an Oscar nomination for directing "City of God", the challenge was holding on to the thread of the story with so many intertwining plots and characters.

"I always had this fear of how to make all this feel like one film ... I think it feels like a film, not like nine short films put together," he said.

Still, some early reviews, which compare "360" to films like "Babel", have said the ambitious structure may stretch itself too thin.

"With a starry international cast and multinational locations, you never take your eyes off the screen for a second. On the other hand, this is a cold and cerebral movie, where one's attachment to any particular character or story is tentative at best," the Hollywood Reporter said in its review.

"You watch the film rather than get absorbed by it."

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