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Old 20th Mar 2008, 12:37   #1
amner
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Default El Orfanato (The Orphanage)

Mad about the boy...

Laura (Belén Rueda) grows up in an orphanage by the sea, until one day (seen in the pre-credit sequence) she is taken away by her new adoptive parents. Thirty years later she returns with her own family, husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo) and young son Simón (Roger Pr*ncep), to blow the cobwebs off the old place and re-open it as a home for sick and disabled kids.

Taken away so young (she is six or seven in those early moments) her memories of the old home are hazy, but swim into her mind's eye regularly. She has no recollection of what happened to her young friends, but becomes uneasy as stronger and stronger images of the past occur to her. Also a little disturbing is Simón who - until the new children arrive - must create imaginary friends as secret playmates. Gradually he seems more and more determined that these children are real. He draws pictures of them and one, a child wearing a sack mask, appears to be suddenly familiar to Laura.



The day of the children's arrival approaches, but on the eve of the big event, a sinister social worker turns up to ask searching questions about Simón. She knows, and the audience now discovers, that the boy is adopted, that he has a serious illness (later we find out what it is), but Laura is very protective and throws the woman out. Doubts grow in your mind about Laura. Is she to be trusted? You see the film from her point of view, hell, you can't escape from being inside her mind; but can you trust her?

On the day of the Grand Opening, Simón has an argument with Laura and runs off. Months pass, the home for children idea is shelved, and Laura and Carlos descend into melancholy. Driven by her despair, Laura tries to find out what happened to Simón, who the mysterious social worker might be, and what exactly happened at the orphanage after she left it so many years before.

Roger Ebert, in his review, said that El Orfanato was deliberately aimed at viewers with developed attention spans, and he's spot on. There are ample opportunities here to descend into schlock and horror, but what first-time director Juan Antonio Bayona opts for instead (іAleluya, el héroe!) are long, long drawn out periods of absolute tension. For those waiting for jolts of terror, there is something about halfway through that will have you leaping out of your seat in surprise, but that's merely there to prove it's possible and the guy's playing with you. For the most part Bayona wants to ratchet it up by degrees.

Is this a thriller, a ghost story or an exploration of the dark corners that despair and sorrow and grief can take us? I'm not sure. Covering a lot of shared ground with The Others and The Innocents, El Orfanato focuses on one woman whose emotions are no longer limited by the safety of conventional relationships. Losing her anchor via grief, Laura is forced to confront the things she's scared of, and she's going to drag you along with her. Rueda gives an intensely physical performance here, utterly driven by her need to find out what happened to her little boy. She's got you on her grip, on her side, because you feel her grief for her, and once you've taken that step in, you're hooked, even if, when the lights start to flicker, you may no longer fully trust the person whose hand you're holding.



There are some distressing moments here (one, where Laura meets the child covered by the mask, will stay with you for good) but none as scary as the trailers. Do not watch them until after you have seen this terrific, thoughtful, smart movie. I don't know what audience they think they're aiming it at (or, rather, I'm afraid I do) but it's not the one it should reach. After 30 minutes a bunch of kids left, muttering, disenchanted no doubt by the lack of cheerleaders and jocks being offed in increasingly inventive ways. Saw, this ain't. Extraordinary it most certainly is.

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Old 20th Mar 2008, 13:13   #2
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Default Re: El Orfanato (The Orphanage)

I though I read that this was Gueillmothingummybob del Torros' next one... and am planning to see at the weekend with my man, we looooved Pan's Labarynthe (what's happened with my spelling? I'm too lazy to check!) so, and he raves about The Others - rainy Saturday night fare yes?

Edit: and doesn't that sack thing just remind you of terrifying sack man in Batman Begins? eeewww delicious shudder!
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 13:16   #3
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Default Re: El Orfanato (The Orphanage)

Del Toro produced or exec-produced, I forget which. I missed this, along with much else, here en Espana, kicking my bad self.
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Old 20th Mar 2008, 13:19   #4
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Default Re: El Orfanato (The Orphanage)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Digger View Post
I though I read that this was Gueillmothingummybob del Torros' next one... and am planning to see at the weekend with my man, we looooved Pan's Labarynthe (what's happened with my spelling? I'm too lazy to check!) so, and he raves about The Others - rainy Saturday night fare yes?

Edit: and doesn't that sack thing just remind you of terrifying sack man in Batman Begins? eeewww delicious shudder!
It's del Toro's "presentation", so he's involved, but not the one who points the cameras and shouts "action!".

It's perfect Saturday night fare yes...and I shall be going a second time this weekend myself, there's so much in it.
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Old 25th Mar 2008, 13:55   #5
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Default Re: El Orfanato (The Orphanage)

SO and I liked this lots, I jumped properly out of my seat at a couple of places, in one instance nearly clawing a large chunk out of poor Shamus' arm, thankfully he thought this was more funny than painful!

I agree totally with a couple of reviews I've seen that this is so tense because at quite a few places where you think there should be a big shock coming, there isn't, which just leaves the tension mounting even further.

Anything in a sack mask is scary... shudder. And in fact, that was a pretty scary party to have, all those masks, not exactly a welcome to your new home I'd like to have! Mind you, after some consideration my thoughts are that anything where expression does not change (clowns/dolls/masks) are scary, precisely because they are beyond the expression of emotion and therefore are unpredictable.

oh my goodness that truck!

I thought Belen Rueda was brilliant, she was so consumed by her despair and yet so strong in her determination to find the answers to the past of the orphanage and to the dissapearance of her son. Equally her husband Carlos was really good, his quiet desperation for the loss of his son balanced well against his desperation for seemingly being unable to help his wife with her assertion that there is something supernatural concealing their son.

Sorry about the block out, anyone still to see the film really shouldn't read beyond, but I wondered what amner thought about this:
althought the film suggests throughout that it is the children who have taken Simon to be their playmate that he saw them because of his illness, it always seemed to me that they were actually after Laura's attention, their old schoolfriend who got to grow up, to avenge their deaths, and that Simon's death was a terribly terrible accident but not to do with the kids - I did suspect something was still to come after she first pushed all those scaffolding poles back into the cupboard but by the time the denoument came around I'd forgotten about them.

It's a wonderful old house - so many creeks and groans, very atmospheric, and a wonderful film too. Definitely one to see.
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Old 25th Mar 2008, 17:04   #6
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Default Re: El Orfanato (The Orphanage)

Son saw this last night and raved about it. Scared the c**p out of him. He highly recommends it, so daughter and I will be paying a visit to the cinema very soon. He thought it may be even scarier to watch at home on dvd, I don't know why, but he mentioned it in the same breath as the Shining, and for him, that's the epitome of scariness.
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Old 26th Mar 2008, 8:33   #7
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Default Re: El Orfanato (The Orphanage)

I'd just like to add my voice to the praise this film has been getting. I didn't find it too scary, because generally the shock moments were announced in advance through camerawork and music (apart from one genuinely unexpected moment that takes place, unusually, in a city street rather than in the orphanage), but it was very tense and gripping. The kind of film that is absorbing to sit through, and then resonates in the mind afterwards.
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Old 26th Mar 2008, 9:51   #8
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Default Re: El Orfanato (The Orphanage)

Squeamish girl in the corner asks: is there any blood in it? I like scary, I just can't handle gore.
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Old 26th Mar 2008, 9:57   #9
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Default Re: El Orfanato (The Orphanage)

No blood, no, absolutely none. Really. Mwahahahahahahaha........
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Old 26th Mar 2008, 9:58   #10
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Default Re: El Orfanato (The Orphanage)

Reassured? I haven't seen the movie myself, by the way.
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