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suffer the children

movie review :: the orphanage (el orfanato)

for a high strung person, i have an inordinate liking for well-drawn, tense, atmospheric films on the fringes of the horror genre. drawing heavy influence from the works of executive producer and mentor guillermo del toro, the orphanage is a beautiful example of just this, navigating the territory between ghost story and psychological drama with aplomb.

the story centres on laura (belen rueda), who has returned with her husband and adopted son simon(who also happens to be hiv positive) to the orphanage where she spent her childhood. her hope is to found a care centre for special needs children, however that is put on hold when simon, his behaviour increasingly bizarre since an encounter at a seaside cave, disappears.

her search for her missing child brings laura in contact with a phenomenally creepy government social worker, a medium, and, as might be expected, the ghosts of her (and the orphanage's) past.

first time director juan antonio bayona uses the tried-and-true "creepy old house" setting, juxtaposed with the rugged, bleak beauty of the catalonian coastline to create a haunted atmosphere for a story that explores different the idea of "haunting" on a number of levels. while the story may at times seem a little predictable, those elements are gloriously tense and, without revealing too much, serve as clever distractions that give the film a later surprise twist.

like a lot of films in this genre, the orphanage makes an unwise turn at the very end. like adding a lot of sugar to dark chocolate... it's not good to tamper with a great thing.

although i usually take it as a bad sign when i notice technical elements in a movie (means i wasn't absorbed in the story itself), i will note that the sound editing in this film is incredible... it builds atmosphere and even contributes in its way to the story.

well worth seeing.

Comments

haven´t seen it yet, though it´s been on forever, in fact the highest grossing spanish film of the season....but waylaid on the goya´s(spoonish oscars)by a far prettier film LA SOLEDAD...will watch it on dvd and see if the familiar surrounds make it less haunting than expected.
health and hedonism.

as long as you're here, why not read more?

i agree, smedley [or, smokers totally saved our planet in 1983]

so this conversation happened [via text, so i have evidence and possibly so does the canadian government and the nsa].

dom and i were trying to settle our mutual nerves about tomorrow night's conversion screening, remembering that we've made a fine little film that people should see. which is just about exactly what dom had said when i responded thusly:

me :: i agree smedley. [pauses for a moment] did you get that here?

dom :: no?

me :: the aliens who were looking at earth and then decided it wasn't worth bothering with because people smoked even though it was bad for them?
come to think of it, that might mean that smokers prevented an alien invasion in the seventies.

dom :: what ?!?!?

me :: i've had wine and very little food. [pause] but the alien thing was real. [pause.] well, real on tv.

dom :: please eat something.

of course, i was wrong. the ad in question ran in 1983. this is the part where i would triumphantly embed the ad from youtube, except that the governmen…

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