Friday, March 26, 2010

Movie with Abe: The Eclipse

The Eclipse
Directed by Conor McPherson
Released March 26, 2010

There is no lunar event that takes place in Conor McPherson’s new film. “The Eclipse” is the title of the new book by fictional author Lena Morelle, who is one of the distinguished guests at a local Irish literary convention. One of the phenomena discussed in Morelle’s novel is that of ghosts and what they signify. Morelle’s presence at the conference is both comforting and mystifying for one man involved in coordinating the events who just happens to be encountering a ghost of his own.

“The Eclipse” is a subtle and surprising film that breaches the seemingly mundane and safe world of authors with the deathly dangerous supernatural. It’s an utterly original premise that is both disarming and extremely powerful. The notion of a ghost of a person who’s still alive is troubling but just as intriguing, and the way it plays out onscreen is very interesting. This isn’t a movie obsessed with cheap thrills, horror, or shock. Every time it gets dark and a ghost appears on screen, it is completely terrifying, but the point is that it’s inescapable, and, perhaps more frighteningly, inexplicable. It’s a meditative film that dwells on concepts and ideas rather than villainizing its semi-undead to scare its audience.

The characters in “The Eclipse” are fascinating all by themselves, even before the story around them kicks into gear. Michael Farr is a widower with two kids who channels his passion for literature into behind-the-scenes work at the literary festival. He is stoic but entirely committed to do whatever the writers, however arrogantly and impolitely, ask of him. Lena Morelle is an author who writes about intense subjects but is petrified of spending even a few minutes alone in a dark house. The intersection of their two lives makes for a terrific and moving story, and their discussions about what may be going on in Farr’s life are extraordinary.

The caliber of the performances more than matches the depth and complexity of the characters. Ciaran Hinds, whose previous credits include background characters in “Munich” and “There Will Be Blood” and Julius Caesar on HBO’s “Rome,” is mesmerizing as Farr. He is muted and solitary but his face says so much when he speaks to his kids and to Morelle, and takes on an entirely different expression of terror when he faces the unknown in the form of a visiting ghost. Iben Hjejle is equally excellent as Morelle, and the way she interacts with Farr and with an egotistical writer named Nicholas Holden (Aidan Quinn) reveals so much about her. A ghost story is sometimes just a tale that involves ghosts, and that can be completely compelling. In this case, it’s not child’s play, and this adult ghost story is a magnificently worthwhile work.


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