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The Eclipse (2010) ***1/2

March 26, 2010

Written by: Conor McPherson

Produced by: Robert Walpole

Directed: Conor McPherson

Rated R for language and some disturbing images

88 min.

U.S. Release Date: March 26, 2010 (limited)

What happens when you die?  When you lose a loved-one, can they continue to interact with you even after death?  Can the dead have physical interactions with the living?  The Irish festival hit “The Eclipse” asks all of these questions somehow without being a “horror” film.  After a six-year layover, writer-director Conor McPherson constructs a frightening drama that deals with the horrors of losing a loved-one.  With visuals that conjure up shades of Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” and subtle scenes of domestic horror that are reminiscent of Robert Zemeckis’s “What Lies Beneath”, does McPherson’s psychologically thrilling drama have enough of its own flavor to leave a lasting impression?

Ciarán Hinds plays Michael Farr, a father of two who recently lost his wife to cancer.  During the day, he goes about his normal life at work and parenting his children.  However at night, Michael is tormented by recurring nightmares and bumps in the night.  We can only assume that these visions and sounds are caused by Michael’s wife, but are they?

There is a writer’s conference in town for the week, and Michael is working as a driver for some of the authors to make some extra money.  One of the female authors in town, Lena Morelle (played by Iben Hjejle), writes about ghostly visions with lost loved-ones in her fictional novels.  As Michael and Lena talk over the course of their drives from place to place, it becomes clear that Lena’s fictional ghost stories aren’t so fictional after all.  All these discussions of Michael’s visions make his mind go wild and he begins to experience visions while he is awake.  These visions have nothing to do with his wife, these new recurring scares are at the hands of an unidentified man covered in blood.  Michael has to figure out how to make sense of these visions, all while he learns to live life without his wife at his side.

McPherson’s visual style adds an extra dimension to “The Eclipse”.  The aesthetics of this film are very similar to Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” or Jason Reitman’s “Up in the Air”.  The world around Michael Farr is exactly as it was prior to his wife’s death, except now he sees it completely differently.  The rule of thirds (“Google” it) is constantly broken, as symmetry, awkward distances and unorthodox lighting methods all play into this movie’s refreshing look.  If I were teaching a course on cinematography I would throw out to traditional examples, such as Orsen Wells’s “Citizen Kane”, and show the class something new and unique, like “The Eclipse”.  Other than some awkward sound editing, which could have been a problem with my IFC On Demand feed, this film was executed almost flawlessly from a technical standpoint.

The idea of being haunted by a lost loved-one is something that everyone in the world can certainly relate to, and the way the filmmakers approach that topic is very intriguing here.  Immediately after a family member or friend’s death, there are little reminders of them all over the place, almost haunting those left behind.  These reminders pepper Michael Farr’s mind all day and night as he maintains a strong exterior for his children.  He plays his charade until he can’t look strong anymore; he is ruled by these uncontrollable hauntings.

If this subject matter interests you, you like watching film for its technical merits, or find intrigue in being scared by a film in an untraditional way, I definitely recommend this film to you!  The cast executes their roles convincingly, the visuals of this film are amazing, and there is great depth in the story that will leave you thinking about it for days.  “The Eclipse” is being released in a limited capacity this weekend and will be distributed in other markets via video-on-demand.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. windi permalink
    March 26, 2010 7:46 pm

    Ciarán Hinds, that’s who that actor is? I really like him! Everything I’ve seen him in, I’ve been impressed by his acting.

    This sounds interesting. I like these kinds of movies…I’ll probably watch it when it comes out on video.

  2. chrisd permalink
    March 28, 2010 4:19 pm

    I first heard of Ciaran Hinds, when he starred in Jane Austen’s “Persuasion.” Then I saw him again in the “Miss Pettigrew” film.

    This sounds like a movie I would like to see. It’s too bad it’ll never make it to the southside of Chicago. I’d love to see it on dvd.

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