Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Orphanage

I saw The Orphanage a few weeks back but didn't write about it because I was a little ambivalent. It suffers from the regular problem of horror genre - it tries too hard to be scary, too many creaking doors etc - so much so that one begins to doubt if the writer/director himself had doubts about the story or else they just didn't trust the sensitivity and the intelligence of the audience. It is a shame though because the film has a terrific story and is very powerfully anchored by the Spanish Actress Belen Rueda in the central role who gives a stirring performance as a woman trying to come to terms with soul-crushing maternal grief.

It is actually very similar to films like The Others and The Innocents (both magnificent films), both haunted house ghost stories with kids seeing ghosts and having imaginary friends. What I liked in this film in particular was the way it interprets the story of Peter Pan. The boy who refuses to grow up and the gang of "Lost Boys" both acquire dark and sinister meanings in the context of the story of this film. Refusing to grow up comes across as a reaction to the knowledge of impending death and lost boys becomes souls lost in the hereafter. It also has quite a lot in common with Guillermo del Toro's The Devil's Backbone which is similarly set in an orphanage and revolves around the ghost of a young boy. Del Toro by the way produced and "presented" the film. The way his name was splashed all over the posters and credits it felt like it was cashing in on his post-Pan's Labyrinth fame but it does stand up on its own. Worth watching, that is after you have watched the three classics I mentioned already. Actually Spaniards seem to be an expert in kiddie-horror genre (that is horror with kids in it, not horror for kids). Both The Spirit of the Beehive and Cria Cuervos, while in no way horror films, use similar narrative devices too. And of course the greatest kiddie-horror of all - The Night of the Hunter.

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