Skip to main content

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.


pelao said…
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?

mental health mondays :: where even the depressed ones are happy

this past week saw the publication of the annual world happiness report, a look at nations around the world and how people in each of them feel about their lot in life. i started following this a few years ago, and this year it occurred to me that it would be fun to look at how the happy places compared to the crazy places. i mean, what if those countries aren't really all that happy, but just have an extremely high rate of psychotic/ delusional disorders?

so, i set to work putting together a comparison. as it happens, that's a bit trickier than it sounds, because information on any kind of disability is more difficult to come by than you might think. and no type of disability is more controversial than a mental illness, which means that there are even more complications around definitions, seeking treatment, prognoses, record-keeping... it's hard to tell how reliable anything you're looking at is. [not that there aren't some good sources.]

and what sources there …


i keep seeing this ad for tictac candies:

am i the only one who finds the suicide bomber clown at the end a little unnerving? all the nice natural things like the bunny and the [extinct] woolly mammoth and the fruit get devoured by a trying-to-appear-nonthreatening-but-obviously-psychotic clown who then blows himself up. congratulations, tictac, i think this ad has landed you on about a dozen watch lists.

oh and by the way, showing me that your product will somehow cause my stomach to explode in a rainbow of wtf makes me believe that doing consuming tictacs would be a worse dietary decision than the time i ate two raw eggs and a half a bottle of hot sauce on a dare.

making faces :: a lip for all seasons [summer edition]

this may seem like an odd time to think about summer, but not to think about coolness. it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea that summer is considered "cool" in colour analysis terms and, in my opinion, reads as the coolest of the cool, because everything in it is touched with the same chilly grey. winter may have the coldest colours, but its palette is so vivid that it distracts the eye. everything in summer is fresh and misty, like the morning sky before the sun breaks through. in my original post on the season, i compared it to monet's paintings of waterlilies at his garden in giverny and, if i do say so, i think that's an apt characterisation.

finding lip colours touched with summer grey and blue is, as you might expect, kind of tricky. the cosmetic world seems obsessed with bringing warmth, which doesn't recognise that some complexions don't support it well. [also, different complexions support different kinds of warmth, but that's another…