By Ishan Marvel for Youth Ki Awaaz:
Crimson Peak, at some level, is about women and their rights—or at least it projects to be. Set in late 19th century America and England, after the lifetimes of Mary Wollstonecraft (author of ‘A Vindication Of The Rights Of Woman’) and her daughter Mary Shelley (author of ‘Frankenstein’), the film is centred on the young author, Edith Cushing (played by Mia Wasikowska; Alice from Tim Burton’s ‘Alice In Wonderland’, and Jane Eyre from the 2011 adaptation by Cary Fukunaga) who aspires to emulate Shelley over Jane Austen (can’t blame her there, can you?) The plot, and the gothic environs and sentiments however, are reminiscent of Jane Eyre.
Comfortably placed on a plush, red velvet seat at a cinema in Vasant Kunj, Delhi – I almost laugh as the film begins with a dishevelled Edith saying, “Ghosts are real, this much I know.” As it turns out, this is the ending – but of course, you don’t know that yet . . . See what the director, writer and producer, Guillermo del Toro tried to do there? ‘Crimson Peak’ is full of such clichés, particularly of the horror-film variety: Imagine grim, rainy funeral scenes; or jerky ghosts who creep up all of a sudden through walls and doors, or shadows running across mirrors, all backed by shrieking sounds. There’s even the quintessential shower scene where the naked heroine is played vulnerable against ghastly spirits—except this time, there is no shower, but an old-fashioned tub, since well, these are Victorian times, remember?
As may be expected from del Toro, who in the past gave us ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ (2006), Crimson Peak is a visual treat. The camerawork at times, like when it pans out of a room through a keyhole, is obtrusive yet brilliant. The historicity seems bang on, be it the tapestries and candelabras of ballroom parties, or the flowing attires and horse-carriages (and also reflected by the staid and sturdy language used in the script). The colours and lighting are rich and brooding—whether it is the bleak, lamp-lit interiors, or the breath-taking shots of snow and blood-red clay outside. Incidentally, this is where the title is derived from: The crumbling mansion of Sir Thomas Sharpe (played by Tom Hiddleston, Loki from ‘The Avengers’ and Thor series) and his sister, Lady Lucille Sharpe (played by Jessica Chastain) set atop a clay mine in the middle of nowhere, and commonly known as Crimson Peak.
To cut a long story short, Edith meets Thomas at her home in America, and is promptly seduced by him, and whisked away to Crimson Peak in England. The chemistry between the two is intense, and acting-wise, the cast is commendable. The film does maintain the tension and drama throughout, although I personally found it a bit slow-paced and dragging after the first half-hour. And in the end, the entire film seemed pointless, just like the many ghosts wandering about the rotting mansion, which as one may surmise is symbolic for all that is sinister—like Edith stresses, “Ghost is a metaphor—for the past.”
Meanwhile, there is a predictable incest angle; and graphic scenes of stabbing and head-bashing abound. Consequently, there is a lot of blood—or a lot of crimson in any case. However, if you are looking for a film that will scare you and leave you sleepless at night, this is not it! Then, to close with a quote that could have been right out of a Victorian novel: “It is a monstrous love, and it makes monsters of us all.”