After my first watch of Crimson Peak at the theatre last month, I wanted to write a review.
De Toro has been one of my favourite fantasy directors for years now, and when I left the cinema that day my mind was full of interesting thought I wished to share. Nonetheless, I was planning a trip to Spain by then, and I wasn´t sure about inmediately posting my impressions on a movie that people might or might not had watched at the time. I decided to wait a bit, and even found the chance to go for a second time with my sister and friends during my stay in Galicia. At this point, I had even more thought running on this, so I started putting this post together and just waited some more time to let most of my readers to find the opportunity to watch it by themselves. I´m sure most of you have done it already.
If not, I beg to stop reading here, as I´ll be exposing plot details and that would spoil the fun for you.
To the ones who can keep with it, here you go:
My personal thoughts and impressions about Crimson Peak.
As I mentioned, my first glimpse of the film was last month, during the week after the release. By then I had no specific expectations or ideas concerning to the whole thing, other than my previous fondness on the director. I knew he was attempting to recreate the classic gothic novel atmosphere too, but that was it. Actually, I got this idea confirmed during the opening:
"Ghosts are real, that much I know", is the perfect choice as a first sentence, which sent my mind direct to the iconic context of major pieces of the genre. This first person narrator brought other beginnings to my memory, that are well-know and evoque the same feeling: "You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings". (Frankenstein).
After Edith´s breaking sentence, the public is shown a book called Crimson Peak, so the director´s intentions are settled on the first thristy seconds on the screen: he´s going to present not only a formal gothic story, but a staged novel of his own.
At this point I must confess I was very excited.
The story starts with the introduction of the classic naive heroine (who I inmediately predicted to be a bit of "the angel of the house" and a bit of "the lady in distress" and who, to my relief, was free from at least the latter of the roles as the story developed). Anyway, Edith is presented as any innocent young woman of her age, although she looks more energic and full of personal goal projects. Of course, this aspect of her personality maked Edith look slightly different from other ladies, as it is suggested when she declares herself to rather be like Mary Shelley than Jane Austen. This moment caught my attention as she defines her attitude, but it is also symbolic as an anticipatory moment, concerning to her future widow condition. We witness an echo of this moment later, when Dr. Alan admits to be an admirer of Conan Doyle´s works.
Characterization is truly careful in this film, both in relation to dialogue and costumes design. The young lady is always presented on a variety of vaporous light-coloured fabrics, and these dresses are usually adorned by floral details, as well as giant puffy sleeves resembling wings. When the Sharpes are introduced in the story, we´re able to understand Edith´s nature as that of the butterfly, meanwhile they are presented as black moths (carnivorous moths, indeed). Once again the ellaborate dialogue in the park scene is as symbolic as the whole costume art, presenting these human moths always in black or a cold toned palette. Also, while Edith wears "Gibson" style clothes maybe symbolizing that she is a modern and practical American, Lord and Lady Sharpe wear proper nineteenth century attires, implying they are stuck in the glorious past of their dynasty, as well as in its decadence.
In relation to the story line, at this point I realized there were many similarities between this and some classics I could remember. I read The Europeans by H. James years ago, and could not stop noticing the plot looked like an obscure version of it. However, this wasn´t the only resemblance. I felt Del Toro´s major influences lied on works such The Fall of the House of Usher, Jane Eyre, The Castle of Otranto and Rebeca, and some popular tales like Blue Beard. Accordingly, most of the characters in Crimson Peak seemed to be based in the ones present in other stories (Lord Sharpe made me think of Roderick Usher, Edith Cushing of Jane Eyre, while Lady Lucille was an interesting mixture of those features beloging to Madeline Usher and Mrs. Danvers), but this is not the only borrow in the movie.
Allerdale Hall (wich could perfectly be Manderley, the Otranto Castle or any other) shows the putrescence of the Sharpe family, as it sinks into the clay. Also, its main hall roof is broken so dead leaves and snow penetrate into the house. This presence of nature phenomenons affecting and being affected by human emotions is what the Romantics called the Pathetic Phallacy, and it is present in any Goth story written during the Goth literature boom.
But coming back to my own subjective impressions, I started feeling bored about Edith´s angelic nature and her helplesness. I was honestly sick of her when Dr. Alan predictably appeared to save her, and I was asking myself why Del Toro was interested on portraying another lady in distress when, suddenly, Lady Sharpe stabbed him and Edith was left to take care of her own again. And surprisingly she did!
She somehow manages to free herself from the villain after a glorious little scene in which we understand Lucille is a real serial killer who even collects victim´s trophies (good one!), and flees to safeguard Alan (yay!) just before the final fight against her nemesis begins.
I will save you the ending, because we all know it and it is the only part that made me go "meh" (although I enjoyed the final round structure, as well as Lady Sharpe turning into a ghost to haunt her own house forever). Nevertheless, and to sum up, I liked the film quite a lot, specially all those little scenography and characterization details I mentioned, as well as many others I decided not to write about because... well, because this post has been long enough for you own good.
So tell darlings, have you watched the film? What do you think of it?