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The Woman in Black - movie report

Yesterday, I took a trip with my brother to see the new Woman in Black adaptation starring Daniel Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps. I was really looking forward to seeing it, now that it has finally been released, after eyeing preview after preview for months. I brushed up on the story and, once settled in my seat, I was sure to pad any hard surfaces with my coat and scarf to avoid injury. (I had heard it was a "jumpy" film, and I jump easily. A lot.) Let's just say I was not disappointed on that front. Hammer Horror did what they do best, and I leapt in shock 3 or 4 times during the film. I was also aching head to toe as I left, from the constant anticipation of being made to jump. It was actually quite physically tiring!

This isn't a film blog, so I won't go into it too much, but I thought the film was very good. I would definitely recommend it to ghost-story loving friends and fans, and encourage them to go and see it - but I do, however, think the book was better, and the London play even more so.

Like many book-to-screen adaptations these days, the story did of course succumb to the usual Hollywood glamour and special effects the budget provided; a capability that will probably be used and flaunted by production companies whether the story calls for it or not. That's not to say it detracted from the story in any way, it just removed that intricate build-up and scene setting both the play and book benefit from, and which made the denoument much more affecting in these instances.

The plus side of a Hollywood budget, though, was the scenery. It was stunning and fit the novel's descriptions wonderfully. Here's a few stills, for example:



So, for a ghost story fan, this was a brilliant ghost story film. It wasn't subtle by any stretch of the imagination, but it was certainly a good jump-fest. I only wish more atmosphere was created, using the scenery to better effect.

The greatest thing about The Woman in Black, though, is that it seems almost tradition now to tell the story differently in each new medium. This means that you are spared my usual woes of "why did they change the story/ending/characters?!" I have outlined the differences at the bottom of this post, so that anyone wishing to avoid them can do, but I will say that my preffered retelling is the play's version, as I enjoyed the ending's take on the "reveal" much more. (In fact, I almost wish this was the original book's version!)

I like that a story, especially a ghost story, can be retold in different ways, and for it to seem like a natural thing that that should be the case. It kind of harks back to the childhood idea of sitting round a campfire, retelling your friends spooky stories your older brother tried to scare you with before... and getting it a bit wrong! I think it is this element that let the film hold it's own against so many previous versions. It was it's own retelling, and a good one at that.

For those wishing to know the differences between stage, screen and page, see below. I hope this list can become longer as I find more ways the story has been represented!

(Warning: spoilers!)

Book: After encountering the "woman in black" at the village of Crythin Gifford, while attending the funeral of his law firm's client, Arthur Kipps experiences increasingly haunting events while going through paperwork at the dead woman's house. There, he unearths the unsettling story of Jennet and Alice Drablow in the documents. When he has settled his affairs at the house, Kipps returns home to his wife and child, only for them to be fatally wounded in a fairground accident as the woman in black still seeks revenge.

Stage: In the play, Kipps hires a young actor to take his place in the story as he retells the legend of the woman in black, in order to try to move on and exorcise the ghost. Kipps plays all other characters in the story himself apart from the ghost. At the end of the play it is revealed the woman playing the role of the "woman in black" never arrived...

Film: In the latest adaptation, Kipps is a young widower sent to organise the paperwork of the deceased at Eel Marsh House to keep his job. While there, he encounters the ghost of the woman in black and is drawn into the superstition of the villagers of Crythin Gifford, who believe that when she is seen, a child dies. At the end of the film, after believing he has sent the spirit "on", Kipps meets his son at a station after being parted for days. As the child wanders onto the track at the coersion of a still-vengeful woman in black, Kipps tries to save him. They are both killed by an oncoming train.


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