Determined young writer, Edith Cushing bears boundless imagination capable of envisioning ghosts due to the existence of her past haunting her. Her aspirations to be more than the typical Victorian woman are shattered after she is claimed as the wife to the mystifying Thomas Sharpe, a cryptic outsider. Soon after they are wed, the pair take accommodation in Thomas’ family mansion with his equally enigmatic sister, Lucille Sharpe. Now, she’s trapped and surrounded by secrets from the disturbing environment. Her innocence is ruptured by the ghosts of Arredale Hall and she finally sees the truth behind the mystery.
Primarily, this is a ghost story. But when thoughts deepen, realisation turns to a fact that our protagonist states during the foundational scenes. It’s not a ghost story, it’s simply a narrative that involves ghosts. It’s brilliantly diverse and crammed with symbolism when you look deep enough into the visual aspects. As an audience we are exposed to many secrets behind the characters, occasionally displaying signs of pathetic fallacy – and thus consciously aware of more than our protagonist is acquainted with.
Edith’s persona in general is initially strong-willed, wanting to go against societies typical rules of women only writing romance novels, and instead striving to develop a story of supposed fantasy. She’s then later hustled into a world opposite to what she’s adapted for, and kept in the dark regarding the intentions of her new family.
The mansion itself is a brilliant character that truly steals the spotlight for protagonist role. It’s dubious and complex appearance adds more layers to the story itself along with a reflection on the characters and their own personas. Overall, it is the house that brings the plot together and unites the elements to provide a satisfyingly eerie perspective. Director Guillermo del Toro aimed to create a brilliantly macabre setting for the Gothic Horror subject, in doing this he built the set from scratch so every detail could be managed and controlled. Comparing the mansion and the occupants prove distinct similarities between the architecture and Lucille, including the delicate decals and motifs included in designs.
“The House is all we have.”
The two dominant female protagonists of the feature, Lucille and Edith, contrast each other brilliantly, even in ways you don’t begin to regard until after viewing the full medium. Firstly, we can address the costume design and wardrobe of characters, a highly significant aspect towards the developments. Growing up in the vivid environments of Victorian Buffalo, Edith is enclosed by the industrial thrive of rich and diverse colours – all displayed through her golden materialisation and costume choices. She’s then thrust into the darker visuals of Arredale and the dissimilarity of the Sharpe heritage.
An essential element to the two characters was the indistinct display of symbolism in their facades, i.e. how Lucille is personified as a dark moth when Edith is a golden butterfly. This brilliant symbolism creates a distinct differentiation between these two diverse personas. The innocence of Edith’s character advances through her appearances, we see as her condition fades she is dressed in whiter tones and thus contrasting Lucille’s deep blues and blacks even further.
In general, the story development built up gradually and paired with a distinct and enjoyable example of pathetic fallacy, the audience is able to see the characters grow and expand further as the plot thickens. Regarding the use of pathetic fallacy, it is down to the pronounced weather and environmental elements that brings more of a complex atmosphere. The typical rain and thunder is used to build tension and is conveniently included to add suspense at opportune moments. The cold conditions reflect well on the bitter personality of the Sharpe siblings, coupled with the deep shadows and harsh highlights, we can visually see a personification of the two mysterious individuals.
With some wonderful camera motions, brilliantly developed hidden symbolism and authentically lively aesthetics, this feature is a pleasure to view. Despite the slow building plot and sheer amount of hidden elements that take time to reveal themselves, we still are able to become gripped to the tale, constantly questioning the true inducements for our antagonistic forces. When it comes down to it, the visuals and interesting components of character embodiments, is what makes this successful.