Monday, March 31, 2008

THE ORPHANAGE/EL ORFANATO - a supernatural thriller dripping with guilt

THE ORPHANAGE is a handsome, patient, supernatural thriller from debutant director Juan Antonio Bayona. A young mother returns to the orphanage in which she grew up, only to find that her own son has been abducted. She suspects a weird, fraudulent social-worker, and then connects her son's imaginary friends to the ghosts of the children she grew up with. In desperation she calls in a medium, only to tip her supremely rational husband into leaving her.

On one level, the movie plays a tense thriller that edges close to horror in a tour-de-force scene featuring Geraldine Chaplin as a medium sensing screaming children in a darkened house.

But the real heart of the movie lies in Belén Rueda's performance as the frightened, desperate, grief-stricken mother. Her performance, and indeed the entire film, drips in a sense of guilt and shame. The guilt of having been adopted and leaving behind her comrades; the guilt of whether she sufficiently loves her adopted child; the guilt of choosing to forget uncomfortable facts in her past.....

As I said, THE ORPHANAGE is a good movie. But the marketing campaign is rather misleading, playing as it does on Gulliermo del Toro's well-deserved reputation for richly imagined, genuinely horrific thrillers. THE ORPHANAGE is good but it's still some way off the sheer brutal horror of THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE let alone PAN'S LABRYNTH. Having said all that, it's definitely worth a look.

THE ORPHANAGE played Cannes, Toronto and Frightfest 2007. It opened in Sapin, Greece, Finland and the USA last year. It opened in Venezuela, Denmark, Colombia, Mexico, Germany, South Korea, Russia, Belgium, France, Hong Kong, Brazil, Iceland, Argentina and Norway earlier this year. It is currently on release in Singapore, the UK and the Netherlands. It is released on DVD in April.

1 comment:

  1. I've been looking forward to this, but yeah I'm not expecting anything to rival Pan's Labyrinth or Devil's Backbone. But I love how in the Hellboy 2 trailer, the put "from the visionary director of Pan's Labyrinth" whereas before it would have been "from the director of Blade 2". Apparently this is getting released here in the middle of May.

    Del Toro is also apparently producing the new Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Cypher) flick which should be interesting.