On this scary episode of House hunters: renovationalso called Things Heard and Seen (Netflix, April 29) Pretty young couple Catherine (recently nominated for an Oscar Amanda Seyfried) and George (James norton) find a dairy farm with great potential in the Hudson Valley. But there is a problem. Not a cracked foundation or rotting in the floor joists, mind you. It is, on the contrary, a ghost.
The lights twinkle ominously, Catherine hears piano music and smells of car exhaust, and her daughter reports seeing a woman in her bedroom. We in the audience also saw the woman, because Shari Springer Berman and Robert pulciniThe movie wants us to know that what is happening is real. There is definitely a ghost hovering in the air of houses, threatening or just agitated.
Little what Things Heard and Seen done with this haunting is inventive, although it is evocative. Based on Elizabeth brundage2016 novel All things stop appearing, the film is steeped in history and mysticism. George is an art history professor whose colleague, Floyd (F. Murray Abraham), holds sessions with a group of locals devoted to the beliefs of Emmanuel Swedenborg, a theologian who wrote about Heaven and Hell and Angels and the Gateway between Life and Death. For more texture, there is also the history of the George and Catherines house, discovered, in the old way, through photographs, books and microfiches. (The film is set in 1979 and 1980.)
Things Heard and Seen is a sort of phantom intellectual mystery, although it is ultimately more concerned with the miserable condition of life than the dead. Catherine and George, seen for the first time in their hectic life in New York City, outwardly appear to be an intelligent and loving couple. But as is often the case with stories like these, there is an error at the center of their marriage, worry and unhappiness that rips them off once they move to the state for a new job in the city. Georges. The aspects of the film give the impression Robert zemeckiss What is below, how a ghost story is used to expose bodily secrets and betrayals within a marriage.
The mystery is nicely put together (it looks way classier than most original Netflix movies) and its psychology admirably. In addition to What is below, the film belongs in the company of The Babadook, in which a woman’s psychic pain is literalized in the form of a monster stalking her son. Catherine is struggling with eating disorders, with her loneliness and her suspicion that George is hiding things from her. Seyfried expresses both the fragility and courage of Catherines, while Norton deftly taints Georges’ charms as the film darkens.
Violence against women, its countless occurrences across time, is the main theme of the film, although it is ultimately addressed too quickly, as the film links Catherine to women of the past who were destroyed by terrible husbands. There’s a rich, sad, and furious summons to this, but Springer Berman and Pulcini haven’t laid the groundwork to determine its eventual impact.
For the main part of the film, Things Heard and Seen is an elegant and curvy mystery, tinged with sex and horror and underhanded satire of academia. However, his tasteful traps in the B movies don’t quite gain the grandeur of the film’s finale. They can’t adjust to the gloominess of the penultimate twist, nor the swirling supernatural metaphysics of the ending. The ambition of the film is respectable, intriguing. But much of its potential is left unused, hanging in its thoughtful air. We’re tempted to say this should have been an elegant miniseries, but Netflix is recent The Haunting of Bly Manor unfortunately demonstrated what happens when ghost stories go on for too long.
The real problem with the film is that it is stuck, like a spirit, between the spaces. It’s cramped in the liminal room between prestige horror and something smoother, sordid, and satisfying. The equilibrium is off, for which a strong distributionRhea seehorn is particularly sharp as a colleague of Georges and the majestic aesthetic cannot compensate. Things Heard and Seen well worth a watch, but its last few minutes will likely cause at least a few people to throw something on the screen in frustration. Only, not in the way the filmmakers perhaps wanted it.
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