While restoring a fifteenth-century painting Julia reveals a hidden Latin phrase. A series of murders begin to rock her small world of art experts, patrons and restorers, and she finds that the mystery of the painting is interwoven with the mystery of the deaths around her.
Based on the book “The Flanders Panel,” this neglected murder mystery was filmed on location in Barcelona by directors Jack Baran and Jim McBride. Its tagline was: “To Some – Murder Is an Art.”
The film starred Kate Beckinsale (in an early, boyish short-haired role – with hairy armpits – before starring in Pearl Harbor (2001), Van Helsing (2004) and The Aviator (2004)). She portrayed the character of Julia Darro, a young and talented art restorer in Barcelona, Spain. Aging and prissy British homosexual Cesar (John Wood) who called her “Princess” was her jealous guardian because her parents had died when she was young.
She thought she had discovered clues to a centuries-old murder and then became surrounded by a modern-day succession of deaths/murders – including her ex-lover Alvaro (Art Malik), the terminally-ill owner of the painting Don Manual (Michael Gough), and Julia’s female boss Menchu (Sinead Cusack). There were parallel clues that she had ‘uncovered’ in an inscription of a 15th century Flemish master painting of a chess game (titled La partida de ajedrez (The Chess Game)) between two men – it read “Who killed the knight (or white horse)?” (Latin: “Quis Necavit Equitem?”) The hidden ancient inscription suggested a politically-motivated, wrongful, unsolved murder of the knight in the picture, committed by one of the subjects in the painting.
The discovery or ‘uncovering’ scene occurred as she drank a glass of wine, approached the ancient 500 year-old painting and studied it – in a topless reflection. In the end, with help from chess expert Domenec (Paudge Behan), it was revealed that Cesar was the murderous culprit. [Cesar was the estranged brother of the owner of the painting, expelled from the family when he was a teenager.] Julia was forced to shoot Cesar to death (in the heart) in self-defense in the climactic conclusion.
Director: Jim McBride