Ghosts or Madness?: Turn of the Screw (2009)

No Twilight Saturday? Yep, no more Twilight! We finished that on Thursday as I had to post this on October 30th. Why? Well today is the 210th anniversary of Sense and Sensibility!

At first I was really bummed because Sense and Sensibility doesn’t have a gothic/Halloween adaption for me to review to honor its anniversary. I also already have reviewed Dead Again which was the catalyst for the 1995 Sense and Sensibility adaption. I was at a loss of what to do when I watched this film:

So every October, I see people posting on Instagram about The Turn of the Screw. Every year I tell myself I should read it or watch an adaption, and last year I finally did (both). I really wanted to see the Colin Firth adaption, but it was no longer available on Amazon, so instead I watched the 2009 version with Dan Stevens. That of course ties in perfectly with today as today is the 210th anniversary of Sense and Sensibility. Of which in the 2008 adaption Dan Stevens plays Edward Ferrars.

This film was okay, in a lot of ways it reminded me of the book Alias Grace. But after reading the story, I think the production did the best they could with an uneven source material. The original story doesn’t even have a real end, it starts with someone reading the governess’ recollections and then just ends, about them passing on the story or anything like that.

But as this is a gothic story I also am adding it to Catherine Morland’s Viewing List.

We start off the film with former governess, Ann (Michelle Dockery) in a sanitarium. She speaks to Doctor Fisher (Dan Stevens); and yes they both were in Downton Abbey. How funny, right?

Anyways, Doctor Fisher is trying to find out what happened with Ann and try to get to the cause of it all.

Ann tells our story in a flashback. She was hired as a governess by a wealthy man who inherited his brother’s children along with Bly Manor. He wants nothing to do with them or any problems that arise. He also seduces Ann and she travels out the country with hopes that their fling will grow into something more.

Ann goes to the house and everything feels sad and dark. There is only female staff, as all the men left to fight in WWI. They are all cold and standoffish to her as well.

Ann meets Flora, her pupil, who is kind and sweet and easy to teach. But those quiet days are interrupted when the other charge, Miles, is sent home from boarding school for saying something so dreadful to another student, a male student.

Ann starts wondering about it and when she finds a note from Miles’ boarding headmaster, she is so horrified she destroys it. She can’t believe that what was written could be true as Miles is such a sweet and tender boy. They all have a wonderful time together, and Ann dreams of the Master coming and then becoming a family together.

Ann finds out that her predecessor, Emily Jessel is buried in the church’s graveyard near the house. It turns out that Jessel had committed suicide.

Then things start turning weird…Ann begins to see the figures of a man and a woman. But no one else sees them. She sees them around the kids, but they keep denying it.

Ann starts questioning the staff about who the man could be, but no one will talk to her except Carla. Carla tells her about Peter Quint, now deceased and former steward of the house. The master was best friend with Quint and liked to “raise hell” with him. Peter harassed and sexually abused all the girls, Emily being the one who actually formed a relationship with him. He spent a lot of time with Miles, Emily, and Flora.

Ann keeps seeing the figures of the man and woman and after hearing the descriptions of the Emily and Quint, she realizes they are who she is seeing. But are they ghosts or is Ann just going mad?

Ann sees Quint push Carla off the roof, but everyone says she must have imagined him as he is dead.

But it doesn’t stop, Ann keeps seeing Emily and Quint together everywhere in violent, passionate, sexual acts. Then she sees Flora and Miles acting like them. She thinks the two, who were so very close to them, were groomed by them. It turns out that Miles repeated something that Quint had said to Emily to a male student. They never tell you what, but as Quint was a rough, crude, and abusive man-I’m sure you can imagine that it was bad.

That’s not good.

Ann decides she must do something, at first she was going to leave but she cares too much for the children. She returns and finds the two having rough play by the lake, Miles trying to drown his sister. Ann saves Flora and hits Miles repeatedly, stopped by the housekeeper.

After that Ann decides to confront Miles and sends everyone away but him. There they wait and have a showdown with Quint. This is interesting as Quint possesses Miles, he demands Quint leaves, and Ann hugs him-the next scene him being dead. Did Quint kill Miles as that was always his intent? Or did Ann kill him when she hugged him? He’s a small thin child, it would have been hard for her to strangle or crush him? Was it ghosts or madness on her part?

Hmmm…

The next day they return to find her with Miles’ dead body. She is arrested and we return to the present. The Doctor believes her story, but she is still sentenced to die.

The film wasn’t bad, I just wish they hadn’t so obviously pointed toward ghosts/possession. I wish they had made it a bit more suspenseful and had the audience question her sanity. This easily could have been added in if they had a mention she had seen ghosts before or something. Like I said it was okay, not terrible but not the best film I have ever seen.

For more gothic stories, go to No Haunt Me Then!…I Know That Ghosts Have Wandered On The Earth. Be With Me Always…Drive Me Mad, Only Do Not Leave Me in This Dark Alone…I Cannot Live Without My Life! I Cannot Die Without My Soul.: Wuthering Heights (1939)

For more ghosts, go to All Right, We Got No Choice. Call the Ghostbusters.: Ghostbusters 2 (1989)

This Is Fate We’re Talking About, and If Fate Works At All, It Works Because People Think That THIS TIME, It Isn’t Going to Happen!: Dead Again (1991)

This is fate we’re talking about, and if fate works at all, it works because people think that THIS TIME, it isn’t going to happen!

So many of you say, hey where is the Jane Austen in Horrorfest? Well, we have had Death by Persuasion and Non-Austen Films for Austen Fans TV show High Seas/Alta MarBut I thought I would throw in another film with a Jane Austen connection. Because, you know:

Yes, while they were filming this-producer Lindsay Doran discovered that Emma Thompson loved Jane Austen. They spent a lot of time talking about Austen and her books:

“I got to know Emma very well over the course of the twelve-week shoot, and it wasn’t long before we discovered our mutual passion for Jane Austen. It was clear that she knew the books by heart, and that her appreciation of them was not of the dry, academic sort she enjoyed them, and she loved their wit as much as she admired their intelligence.” Lindsay Doran, from The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries: Bringing Jane Austen’s Novel to Film

Doran than watched Emma’s show Thompson, and after seeing the writing and acting there-asked her to write Sense and Sensibility. Yes, without this film, this film never would have been born-or a less wonderful version would have been created.

So let’s review Dead Again

This film struck my interest when a patron checked it out at the library. So, of course, when it came back I had to check it out and watch it. It is a film-noir, murder mystery romance.

Film Noir

So the film starts off in black and white in the 1940s-amazingly with newspaper stories and headlines about the Musical Murder of Margaret Strauss by her Conductor Killer, Roman Strauss. Actress Margaret (Emma Thompson) was stabbed by scissors and her conductor husband Roman, (Kenneth Branagh) put on death row for the murder. As he approached the electric chair, journalist, Gray Baker (Andy Garcia), goes to hear the last words-Roman saying that this is far from over.

Now in color it is 50 years later-a woman (Emma Thompson) with no memory and can’t talk is in an orphanage.

The nuns and priest have been taking care of her-but it appears the help she needs is much more than what they can offer. They hire Michael Church, (Kenneth Branagh) a private detective who was raised at the same orphanage, to take her to the asylum and discover who she is.

Laura

Michael Church (Kenneth Branagh) is known for being able to find “anything” and “anybody”. He has just found Dr. Cozy Carlisle (Robin Williams) psychologist turned store owner who’s been hard to discover. He gets the call and heads to the orphanage.

Ready for any case

Michael inspects all that they know about the unknown woman and discovers she has a Claddagh ring-an Irish ring which represents love, loyalty, and friendship-but only one band, the other is missing. He takes her to his friend at the newspaper who takes her picture and they plan on it being printed in tomorrow’s edition. Church then goes to take the woman to the asylum, but after seeing how horrible it is-takes her to his home. Just because it looks bad-like it has nothing to do with the fact she is a pretty woman?

The woman experiences nightmares, a fear of scissors, and screams out Dysher. The next day, Church gets all kinds of calls about the woman-but all are just cranks. But then, Franklyn Madson (Derek Jacobi), comes calling. He is an antique dealer and hypnotist who wants to help. He regresses the woman and we shift to black and white-to the Strausses.

Los Angelas Late 1940s

Margaret was an actress-beautiful, English, and beloved by all. She went to a concert and saw conductor Roman Strauss and was struck by him. Roman was from Europe, and escaped the Nazis, his wife dying in the escape.

Roman is just as struck as her and the two date, fall in love, and marry. Roman gifts her the Claddagh ring, with a matching one, and a very expensive anklet.

Roman Strauss: The man I bought it from explained to me that, when a husband gives it to his wife, they become two halves of the same person. Nothing can separate them… not even death.”

They marry and at the wedding, a Mr. Gray Baker (Andy Garcia), writer, comes as the date of someone. He is enamored of Margaret and actually tries to flirt and charm her at HER wedding-ugh this dude.

I’m out!

Understandably, Roman is very upset and does not like him.

Margaret “doesn’t” understand his feelings as she loves Roman.

The two are in love and happy-except for one thing. Margaret hates Roman’s servants -Inga and her son Franky. She thinks they don’t like her and they keep usurping her authority. She wants to be rid of them, but they saved Roman’s life. He never would have made it out of Germany without them.

After the regression, the woman can speak. They look over the Strauss story in Life magazine, located in the antique shop. They see a resemblance between the Strausses and them and that the orphanage where they both spent time, was the old Strauss mansion.

Spooky…

Church gives the woman the name Grace, and then goes to see Dr. Carlisle to talk about what happened. Dr. Carlisle tells him some cases where he worked with patients and regression helped solve the issues. He thinks they should continue to see the hypnotist and see what comes of the Margaret and Roman story. 

Hmmm

Grace and Church spend a lot of time together and fall in love.

They have sex and the next day a man shows up claiming that Grace, real name Katherine Sharpe, is his fiance. He has all the answers to Church’s questions, until he catches him in a lie about gloves. The man takes off and Church tries to catch him-but the man gets away.

Why would they want Grace? WHO would want her?

Hmmm

Church and Grace go back to the hypnotist where Grace regresses more…

Los Angeles Late 1940s

They Strausses are having a few cracks in their relationship. As Roman is not involved in Hollywood, he is seen as a “nobody” and is trying to write an opera but suffering from writer’s block. They are at a party and no one wants to talk to “nobody Roman”.

Margaret gets approached by Gray and the two go outside to talk. Gray is so in love with her it is super obvious-and Margaret should not be feeding it. Gray asks to “look” at her anklet, and she obliges-he holding her leg up to take a “closer look”. Really…really now?

Margaret, can’t you see how this is something you as a married woman should bot be doing with a man who is not your husband? Hmmm….?

Seriously

Roman sees them and becomes understandably furious, punching Gray in the face  (not understandable) which knocks him in the pool. They try to make it sound as if Roman is a jealous brute, making a big deal out of nothing-but I have to disagree. This guy started trying to get with Margaret at her wedding-and he’s still trying. Even though Roman shouldn’t have punched him-he totally deserved it.

The Margaret and Roman get in a fight-with it ending as Roman confesses his insecurities.

Later Margaret catches Frankie in her jewelry and tries to get Roman to fire them, but again he refuses. Gray calls Margaret, which Roman accidentally overhears. He questions her abut the call but she lies to him.

Later, Margaret was lying in bed when she is stabbed-by Michael Church!

Grace wakes up from her trance angry, confused, and scared. Michael takes her home but she flips out convinced that he will kill her.

In order to calm her, Church decides to regress as well. What he discovers changes everything. Will they figure out this mystery and solve it before another murder? Or will history repeat itself?

Hmm…

I liked how the movie was in color for the present and then reverted to the past. I thought it was pretty intriguing with a few twists and turns that I didn’t see coming were thrown in very well. And now that I have seen the film, that poster is sop perfect and obvious. It is well worth a view for fans of Spellbound and film-noir

The end is a little cheesy, but Im not sure how else they could have had an ending that satisfied the viewer. I didn’t want to give away the end, so if you’s like to watch it, click here.

For more film-noir, go to Do You Ever Feel Like Your Life Has Turned into Something You Never Intended?: Nocturnal Animals (2016)

For more private detectives, go to Basil of Baker Street: The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

For more on Sense and Sensibility (1995), go to I Don’t Want You Far From Me: Sense and Sensibility (1995)

For more on Lindsey Doran, go to The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries

For more on Robin Williams, go to Diamond in the Rough

The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries

Sense&sensibility

The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay & Diaries: Bringing Jane Austen’s Novel to Film

When I read the opening line of:

“IF THERE WAS ANYTHING I knew for certain, it was that Pride and Prejudice was a very stupid book and that Jane Austen was a very stupid writer, and that I would never, ever read one of her stupid books again. I was thirteen years old.”

I was hooked.

PutthebookDown

This book was amazing! It was funny, interesting, full of Jane Austen, and behind-the-scenes extras. I could not stop reading it.

So the book is divided into three parts: Part 1: Lindsay Doran, producer; Part 2: The screenplay; and Part 3: Emma Thompson’s on set diaries.

heading-banner11970857801243195263Andy_heading_flourish.svg.hi

Part 1: Lindsay Doran

In this section, Lindsay discuses her first involvement with Jane Austen, and when reading the above quote you can see that she didn’t particularly enjoy it. Her view was changed at college, when during an English oral report, one girl told of the many virtues of Jane Austen and her novels. Lindsay told herself she would then put those books on her  reading list, but like everyone didn’t get around to it immediately.

diewithbookstoread

After Doran had an accident and was forced to remain home and stationary, she had the idea to read all of Jane Austen’s novels, out of which her favorite became Sense and Sensibility. Being a film producer, she saw the merits for turning this into a movie; but knowing that there would be a few complications. Trying to find funding for the film would be hard, along with choosing the perfect actors to portray the characters. Most of all, one would have to find a writer who could channel the voice of Jane Austen, yet make it something that the everyman could enjoy. Lindsay put it on the backburner until she discovered that writer.

paris-whenitsizzlesaudreyhmmHepburn

Eventually Emma Thompson was brought to her attention in the film Dead Again. With that film she discovered Emma loved Jane Austen and with the writing Emma did on her show Thompson and Doran knew that Emma would be the perfect person for the project and role of Elinor Dashwood. However, not everyone felt that way as it was very difficult for Lindsay to convince the rest of the people to take a chance on an unknown. This surprised me, as Emma Thompson is a huge star today, but then as I looked on her filmography, I realized she hadn’t made that many films at the time. In fact the biggest actor involved was Hugh Grant, who today is kind of passed over for Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, and Kate Winslet; as most fans prefer their performance in the film.

Lindsay Doran is a great writer, almost as it is is a conversation. It reads as if you happened upon her at a party and asked how did you get involved with the film Sense and Sensibility? Was it easy to bring to film? It reads really well, and is extremely enjoyable.

heading-banner11970857801243195263Andy_heading_flourish.svg.hi

Part 2: Screenplay

This part is just word for word the screenplay of the film. I really enjoyed it as it included scenes cut from the actual film, along with having every part of the dialogue, allowing you to see what you might have missed in watching it. It was a fun read for any lover of the film or book.

dashwoods_sense_and_sensibility_movie

heading-banner11970857801243195263Andy_heading_flourish.svg.hi

Part 3: Emma Thompson’s On Set Diaries

This were really interesting as they are not only the behind-the-scene view of an actor, but the screenwriter as well. As Emma was the writer of the screenplay; we get to see her constant rewriting, agony over any cut scene or changed line, pushing of other actors to fix lines or say them a different way; along with her relationship with the director, set designers, producers, casting director, etc.

On the flip side of that, we have Emma Thompson the actor, who has to pull herself out of that writer role to become Elinor. Within this sphere she has a completely different relationship with the director, actors, set designers, makeup artists, etc. It is an interesting read as Emma herself talks about how she is straddling two worlds and has to separate herself from one when she enters the other.

She also tells fun stories of her and the cast, how the weather affected everything, the cultural differences between the English actors, American film crew & producers, and the Taiwanese director.

Elinor-Dashwood-sense-and-sensibility-2633393-894-592

heading-banner11970857801243195263Andy_heading_flourish.svg.hi

All in all it was a great read for any Jane Austen or Sense and Sensibility fan. I highly recommend it and gave it 5 out of 5 stars.

heading-banner11970857801243195263Andy_heading_flourish.svg.hi

For more on Sense & Sensibility, go to It Doesn’t Exist

For more on Emma Thompson, go to A Bit Pottery About Jane Austen

For more books with a Jane Austen flavor, go to Fall For You