Communicator (communicator) wrote,
Communicator
communicator

The Awakening

Cold winter nights are good for ghost stories. Last night I went to see The Awakening which is a new low-budget British film, starring the ubiquitous Dominic West, and Rebecca Hall - I haven't seen her before, but she's very good.

The film is set in 1921. Everyone is bereaved and traumatised by the recent war. I liked the expression of this painful and transitional stage of British history. Rebecca Hall plays a very interesting character: an atheist sceptic and debunker of Spiritualism, of that generation which is trying to be new type of woman. She is called in to debunk a rumour of a ghost at a newly established private school in the Lake District. The headmaster wants the rumours sorted out before they scare away paying customers. Dominic West is the Latin master, who is still suffering from shell shock.

Hall is the main protagonist and p.o.v. She's complex and intelligent, enjoyable to follow. The atmosphere of the big house where the school has been established is well done, and the scary stuff is quite effective. It's not some all-out mega-horror - it's a gentle ghost story.

It is difficult to resolve a ghost story. I mean, full stop, ghost stories are hard to bring to a satisfactory conclusion, because they dramatise uncertainty and disorientation. And in this case, do we simply want the sensible sceptic to be proved wrong (ha ha ghosts are real, so much for science)? That doesn't seem a resolution, just authorial fiat.

In the event the ending was plausible and ambiguous enough. However I still didn't like the resolution as much as the build up. Perhaps I just don't like resolution at all.

Oh, I must just mention one scene, which is not quite like anything I have seen before in a film. Hall finds a little hole in the wall of one room, which lets her spy Dominic West in the bath. Well, I don't blame her for having a little peek. But he starts self-harming - cutting his leg with a razor presumably as a way of coping with trauma and guilt. I've not seen male emotional vulnerability portrayed in that way in a film before, and that being part of what draws her to him. It makes sense as a way of externalising the internal harm which everyone is experiencing as a result of the war, which is really the subject of the film I think.
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