On Monday September the 28th, I went to the preview of Crimson Peak (Guillermo Del Toro) introduced by the director and two of his three stars, Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska. As a gift to the French public, Tom Hiddleston made a heartfelt short love declaration to the film in a sweet accented French. Among other things, he enthused “Le film est comme une peinture et je l’aime beaucoup.” (“That film is like a painting and I love it very much”)  and teased that “C’est une histoire de fantômes, mais les fantômes sont des emblèmes d’amours interdits.” (“It’s a ghost story in which ghosts are emblems for forbidden loves”).

Del Toro definitely stopped at “Mon crayon est rouge” before continuing in English. He defined his film as “A Gothic Romance”, with, he promised, a definitive feminine (and NOT feminist, as he was sadly prompt to correct the translator) touch and a new take on gender politics, sexuality and violence. A story in which ghosts are metaphors, with an aesthetic that would give the public clues, telling the story as much as the script.

 

 

As far as the aesthetic is concerned, Crimson Peak does not disappoint. It is hauntingly beautiful, all in colours, contrasts, lights and shadows.

Ghosts appears humans and humans are like ghosts in this Edith Sharpe’s (Mia Wasikowska) Gothic novel brought to life. None of the it feels real, but none of it feels fake. It is a dream of beauty, a broken, bleeding dolls house inhabited by the past and haunted by chilling archetypes. Themes are easy to read but as long as you love Gothic literature and films, the simplicity is never boring.

Del Toro brings us with ease into his love for the horrific and the bizarre with a crafted masterpiece that is definitely Oscar worthy in the costumes and visual effect departments, especially considering that the sets are, from his own words, real and hand made.

However, I was expecting more from Crimson Peak, plot wise. Perhaps that was my mistake, but I could not help feeling a bit disappointed.

The plot-line is rather easy to sort out, meaning I spent a good chunk of the film waiting to be surprised and ultimately was not. There are a few incoherences, though they can be ignored easily as the aesthetic takes us is.  Del Toro cheerfully follows the path we are waiting for him to walk, going exactly where we expect to be led. The role of Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain, whose performance is chilling and fantastic) is a rather predictable one, and, what is more annoying, an archetype we have seen before for many female characters.

 

 Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak Official Pictures

Nonetheless, if you allow yourself to be captured by the atmosphere, Crimson Peak will win you over.

On a side note, it was a pleasure to my ex-Supernatural fan’s heart to see Jim Beaver again, in a role that is familiar to the actor but feels all the more genuine for it.

Love and death are at the centre of the film and the choice of Tom Hiddleston to play Thomas Sharpe is a coup de maître. Impeccable in the role his character plays – the dreamy British aristocrat – his pallet of nuances is endless. As always, he brings his skills as a Shakespearean actor to the film, deepening the shadows and lights behind Thomas’ façade. He conveys, with desarming earnesty, all of Thomas’ tenderness, his helpless love and darkest desires. Tom Hiddleston brings to his character fragility, a beautiful vulnerability.

 

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Crimson Peak Official Pictures

The true revelation of Crimson Peak, however, is Mia Wasikowska. Her Editih is a marvel. It is not the first time her woman-child grace – which reminded me of Christina Ricci in Sleepy Hollow – has been wisely used in a film. She always plays the part beautifully. But in Crimson Peak, Edith is so much more. Innocent but sharp, terrified but with a will of iron, she is compelling, nuanced, intelligent and in love. Like the Mary Shelley she wished to be, a Mary Shelley who would live her own tales, Edith is the one who not so much reverses – which might have been disappointing – the gender politics and stereotypes of the genre, but throws them out of the window all-together. Sadly, the same cannot be said of Lucille, whose darkness and motives are nothing new in a female character of the genre. Even so, the meeting of those two formidable women is one of Crimson Peak’s strongest points.

 

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Crimson Peak Official Pictures

In the triangle of love, desire, violence, co-dependency, fear and deceit rests what will make Crimson Peak a favourite of mine, despite its imperfections. In them and in the visual beauty of the film itself. I simply wished it had more to tell and perhaps more ghostly terror to show instead of blood for blood. Although, to be fair, even the gore and the grotesque have their own aesthetic in Crimson Peak. I also wish they had not cut the cunnilingus short. Then again, is it not almost always the case? I suppose that Hiddleston’s nakedness against Wasikowska clothed beauty is already something to treasure in the innovative sex scene department.

Crimson Peak is a film I recommend wholeheartedly. Impeccable acting, old school Hammer film references, stunning visuals, eerie atmosphere and Guillermo Del Toro’s genius at work… A Gothic tale it would be a shame to miss.

 

Allow me to conclude with a quote from Del Toro’s introduction:

“It doesn’t work quite as a scary movie more like an eerie movie where the scariest things are the humans.”

 

“Love makes monsters of us all…”

Crimson Peak

Directed by Guillermo Del Toro

Written by Guillermo Del Toro and Matthew Robbins

Runtime: 119 minutes

With Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver…

Written by Meique

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