Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Woman In White (1997)

The Woman In White (1997) is an adaptation of a Wilkie Collins Victorian mystery I have watched a couple times and enjoyed each time. But I have debated doing a review of this film because it is/has been a fairly popular period drama that many people have already seen. So in this review I want to particularly address why I've put an asterick next to it on the "Old-Fashioned Films" page marking it has having an objectionable themes or scenes. I want to point out the good points, bad points and whether to see or not see.

Synopsis: The story of two sisters so unalike but so completely devoted to each other. Marian Fairlie, the older sister, is a bold modern woman, with a skeptical view of life. She is protective of her younger sister Laura who is sweet, naive and trusting. Their story begins when their uncle highers young Mr. Hartright to teach them art. Mr. Hartright is enchanted by Laura and befriends both girls until the startling testimony of a servant girl casts a shadow on his character and he is dismissed. Thus begins a series of strange events which continues with the strange babblings of "the woman in white", the half-crazed forest wanderer Anne Catherick. Laura soon marries young Sir Percival Glide, a man Marian worries is only after her money. Marian spends a long visit her sister and brother-in-law where she also meets Count Fosco. There she begins to see the depths of evil she has feared, danger not primarily of body but of the mind. Can she keep her sister and her fortune safe and find out the mystery behind Anne Catherick's past? She'll have to stoop to underhanded inquiries and accept help from an old friend before the wrong is righted. - Laurie M.

The Good: In this film the lines of good and evil are clearly drawn, especially in the end. The bad are punished and the good are rewarded. Though evil threatens to prevail many times, good will ultimately win the day.
The sisterly devotion between Marian and Laura is very touching. Laura herself is the sweetest girl you'd every want to meet and it's hard to see bad things come her way. Marian turns out to be the heroine of sorts, and her devotion to her sister and to finding out the truth is commendable. A sweet love story also develops during the film which adds a lovely ending, but the couple must go through many hardships before they're allowed to be happy at last.

The Bad: Anne Catherick is the "woman in white" and her story is a very sad one. Laura's life is also full of misery after she marries, and though none of the abuse and manipulation is shown it is mentioned and bruises are shown. No violence is ever shown on screen and threats are not physical but more of a mental vein. The suspense in the film reminds me of an Alfred Hitchcock film - you don't need blood and gore to make a film suspenseful and scary! There is a scene toward the end of the film that is very scary, but it turns out that the bad guy gets what he deserves. Marian does quite a bit of hiding and creeping about, and she also has to do some underhanded things (such as threatening a doctor with scandal) to find out the truth. I wouldn't recommend this film for viewers under 16 years of age, simply for the themes of abuse and suspense that run through the film.

Sets and costumes are all lovely! Music is very fitting for the story and ambiance. Acting is exceptional, just what one would expect from a BBC period drama. There are many recognizable faces. Here are just a few and a bit about the characters they portray:

I recently made this YouTube video with music and photos from The Woman In White. The music is lovely in a bittersweet sort of way!

My Recommendation: I greatly enjoyed Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone and expected something similar to that story when I was first watching The Woman In White. While this is a very well done story and I do highly recommend it, I would say watch with caution. As stated above, because of themes of abuse and the great suspense in the film, I would recommend this to only viewers aged 16 and up. My sister is 14 and I would not recommend this for her even though she has seen murder mystery. While violence and physical abuse are never shown on scene those themes strongly underlie the mystery surrounding Anne Catherick and the treatment of Laura by her husband.
All in all it is a lovely film and not to be missed! There are many things in it's favor, even just good old-fashioned story telling. Lots of old-fashioned charm!

If you've seen The Woman In White or read the book I'd love to hear your opinions! Comments and questions are always welcome!

Very Truly Your's,


The Editrix said...

This movie scared me! LOL! It was pretty intense viewing at times.

Great review, Laurie!

R. A. said...

The book is AMAZING! I felt that the movie added mature themes to try to modernize it and I did not appreciate that. It is an awesome, suspenseful story on it's own and it doesn't need to be about child abuse to make it watchable! :P

Kathy said...

I haven't read the book, but I do like reading your insightful film reviews. Thanks for sharing.

Miss Laurie of Old-Fashioned Charm said...

For some reason the images aren't appearing in the post right now. Click on the blank image to see the photo. :)

Melody said...

I have one question--the abuse, &c. that you speak of but is never shown; is it a kind that can be talked about in a way that would be questionable (and if so, is it)? In other words, is it just disturbing or could it actually be inappropriate? Haha, I hope I'm making sense. ;)

Regina Beth Parale Moreno said...

I've read the novel and I've just watched the TV version and as usual, the latter disappoints. On hearing Marian being addressed as Ms. Fairlie is so, so inaccurate, the same with the insinuation that Anne was sexually abused by Sir Percival (notwithstanding that he's got a beastly character) is another inaccuracy that I can't understand why it had to be added. While it is true that it was one long piece of work and that making a video version is very difficult, I still find the deviations from the real story unforgivable. To me what is acceptable is missing out on some details, but please not adding the same that was probably the furthest from the genius of Wilkie Collin's mind.
The only consolation I derived from watching classics like these is the chance to put some flesh in the characters, an appreciation of their environs, their costume, etc.
Had this been an original work, then bravo, but since this claims to be based on the novel that bears the same title, then I must reiterate my disappointment.
Thank you.

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