Darkness onscreen may be effective in making your movie moody and atmospheric but one thing that's always important for filmmakers and especially their cinematographers to remember is that we still need to be able to see what's going on in your movie.
Considering the rolling hills with waves crashing below and roads filled with twists and turns, Ireland is obviously the ideal location for a Bronte-like romantic tinged ghost story and it serves this purpose extraordinarily well in filmmaker Conor McPherson's film The Eclipse, based on the short story “Tales from Rainwater Pond” by Billy Roche.
Yet despite its amazing natural ambiance that no one could ever duplicate on a Hollywood soundstage, there were a few key moments when our nightmare plagued lead Michael Farr (Ciaran Hinds) investigates a possible haunting in his home wherein we can barely make out what is happening due to the grainy, murkily lit frames that flash before our eyes.
While I'm unsure if this was perhaps a wise artistic decision or if magnification was better in the theatre and likewise will make the film much sharper on high definition Blu-ray, in this otherwise sophisticated chamber drama, technical shortcomings like the lack of light threaten to derail the film completely and pull us out of the experience rather than strengthen our interest in the otherwise engrossing plot-line.
Set during the week of the community's widely respected literary festival that draws in bestselling authors from around the globe including the pompous Nicholas Holden (Aidan Quinn) and lovely Lena Morelle (Iben Hjejle), widower Michael divides his time between life as a woodshop teacher and father of two with his duties volunteering at the event for the tenth year in a row.
Assigned to chauffeur detail, Michael soon forms an unlikely connection that blossoms into an intimate friendship with Lena, whom he gets to know both on call shuttling her to and from readings and meetings as well as sightseeing as he begins opening up to the supernatural scribe about his own close encounters with the ghostly kind.
Unable to share his feelings with anyone else, particularly not his young children so as not to alarm them, he finds a compassionate confidant in Lena who likewise lets Michael into her own emotionally complicated world when the married Nicholas who'd lied to her about being separated refuses to let go his obsession with the London beauty including delusions that he'll leave his wife for her.
While their one night tryst seems to have affected him deeply, Lena doesn't reciprocate any of his intense puppy love feelings and as she becomes closer with Michael, Nicholas grows increasingly unstable as he takes advantage of as much free alcohol that the festival offers.
While Lena's character is particularly delightful – at once both vulnerable and strong – another weakness that could benefited from further illumination regards shedding the light on the character of Michael for us to have felt as invested and curious as he was about his ghostly interactions since aside from jolting us in our seats, the payoff doesn't really work without more back-story.
Similar to the way that Intimate Strangers was a romance presented like a psychological thriller, The Eclipse becomes a romance presented like a horror film and despite the fact that the genre blending detracts a little bit from the overall effect of the work as either a love story or a spooky nightmare, overall it's strengthened considerably by the solid turns from its talented trio of lead actors and of course, that pitch perfect – if a little dark – Irish scenery.
Text ©2010, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.