Sunday, 12 February 2012

A Friday afternoon with a Woman in Black

On Friday I took a half day at work and spent my afternoon sat at the back of a cinema watching The Woman in Black.

Ghost stories, to me, at the epitome of horror.  Nothing scares me more than a good ghost story and while I hate being scared I am drawn to these stories; they entice me, they’re addictive.  The reason for this, I believe, is because there is always a good plot behind a ghost story; how did the person die, what do they want?  That is what  separates ghost stories from a regular slasher/gore film.

I went to see The Woman In Black because I had to (it’s a classic, gothic ghost story!), but also because I wanted to see if Daniel Radcliffe could leave Harry Potter behind.  I am pleased to say that Daniel Radcliffe is a very good actor.  At no point did I look at him during the film and think of a little boy wizard.  Daniel Radcliffe has grown up and has now starting to show the world that he can act.

The Woman in Black is a story about grief.  The grief of Arthur Kipp (Radcliffe) who has lost his wife and the grief of parents losing their children.  Arthur Kipp, a solicitor, travels to a small isolated village to deal with the paperwork on the estate of a recently deceased woman.  He arrives in the village where the children die in violent and strange circumstances and the presence of a spirit hangs over their homes.   Kipp continues with his work and uncovers the story of the inhabitants of the old house cut off from the mainland. 

While The Woman In Black is primarily focused on the theme of grief, it is my opinion that this story is also a journey for Kipp into fatherhood.  He starts the film so consumed by grief that it has become his identity despite his love for his four year old son.  Throughout the film he begins to appreciate the importance of his son and as the film continues you begin to see him as a loving and responsible father rather than a man torn apart.

This film is typically horror in that it is full of jumps.  It is set in an era that is perfect for horror stories of this type, full of scary dolls, oil lamps, no telephones and creaking floorboards.  Daniel Radcliffe carries the film as his character is the main focus.  The story is learnt and filters through Kipp and he is a character that the viewer empathises with from the very beginning.  Many reviews worried that Radcliffe would be too young to play a character like Kipp and I admit I too was a little worried about his age.  I am happy to say that Radcliffe portrays Kipp sensitively and, although is young, it is never questionable that he could be a young husband a father.  In fact, I believe that Radcliffe’s youth brings something extra to Kipp’s character; a certain vulnerability of the young and naive which makes his grief and actions all the more believable and painful.

This is a story that can be picked apart and interpreted in so many different ways.  The ending, for example, is different to that of the book, which may annoy some but I feel gives the film an interesting ending with some form of conclusion.  Again, the ending can be interpreted in different ways and so I think it is best to stick with the immediate feeling you are left with when watching it, which for me was an uneasy feeling of closure.

The whole film leaves you with a tingling sense of uneasiness with that boost of adrenaline that fear inspires.  Daniel Radcliffe is superb in the leading role, conveying so much heartache with just one look. 

This film is classed as a 12a.  I would not let a twelve year old watch this film, although I wonder if a twelve year old would grasp the true horror of this film.  Would they just see the jumps and ghosts or would they see the mind-numbing agony behind it of the loss that no person should ever have to suffer?  This is an adult story for an adult audience, I do wonder whether a child would be able to fully appreciate the themes in this story.

While this film will not find a home in my permanent collection, I am glad I went to see it and I would urge anyone other than those of a truly nervous disposition (or anyone who has recently suffered a loss) to see it also.  A beautifully gothic film and a perfect start to Daniel Radcliffe’s non-Harry Potter career.

I will be venturing to the cinema again on Valentine’s Day with the person I love for a very different film, a trip back into my childhood for the new Muppets film!

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