Through The Shadow
(Romeu Evaristo, Alexandre Varella, Isabel Gueron, Xande Valois, Mel Maia, et al / DVD / R / (2015) 2021 / Jinga Films - MVD Visual)
Overview: Moving to the countryside of 20th century Rio de Janeiro, prim and assuming Laura is unprepared for life on an isolated plantation.
Hired as a nanny for two young orphans who live on their uncle’s coffee farm, she soon notices that things are not all as they seem.
Confronted with continual apparitions, and noting the children’s increasingly ambiguous behavior, Laura becomes convinced in the presence of hostile spirits whom she believes are intent on taking possession of her young charges.
With growing concerns for their safety, she strives to unravel the mysteries of her new home without realizing that it may be herself who is in mortal danger.
DVD Verdict: In truth, and in my humble opinion, this Brazilian version of Henry James’s Turn of the Screw felt a wee bit mismatched.
Traditionally there has been two distinct interpretations of the novella. The first psychological - The teacher is naïve, highly repressed and due to the isolation and sheer loneliness she suffers from, she becomes overwhelmed and begins to see and imagine impossible things.
The other, and by far the more popular interpretation when it comes to cinematic versions - A genuine haunting by two menacing and malevolent spirits seeking to possess and corrupt the two innocent children.
This movie seems to be mix of the two interpretations, creating an interesting but uneven result.
The children were perfect for their roles. Their cherubic innocence made their teacher’s passionate concern for their safety utterly believable.
Indeed, and again, to my mind, the so-called weakness of the film lies with the casting of the teacher and the selfish uncle.
It was difficult to buy into Virginia Cavendish as the repressed teacher, as she came across as far too worldly, possessing too strong a sense of independence and emotional maturity.
Nor did it help that Domingos Montagner as the uncle lacked the finesse and charm the character required to be convincing.
I also felt several of the supporting characters’ backstories were left undeveloped and that was a lost opportunity. The director could have exploited these backstories for greater dramatic affect, giving the movie more nuance, and depth.
Due to the time limit of the movie and the uneven pacing, much of the novella’s menacing ambiguity was missing. The lack of conflict between the children and the teacher toward the end meant the shocking conclusion felt out of place. Tacked on, even.
Furthermore, there was a BBC television version done in 2009 that did a much better job of translating the story to the screen. Proving, in my opinion that the subtle elements of this story are better suited to a television miniseries.
But all faults aside, this movie is definitely worth checking out. Especially on a late stormy night, with plenty of rain lashing against the windows to add an extra layer of heighten disquieted creepiness to your viewing experience! Check it out and decide for yourselves. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.