Friday, October 24, 2014
"In a Dark Place" is a setting of the Henry James novella "The Turn of the Screw"; so is a Britten opera
“In a Dark Place” (2006), directed by Domato Rotunno, is, on the surface, a gothic, ghost-story horror film shot mostly outdoors on a wintry estate in Luxembourg. But it is based on the 1898 novella “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James (text), which had also inspired the 1954 chamber opera by Benjamin Britten.
Sexual exploitation, leading to demons in the mind, drives the story. In the beginning, Anna Veigh (Leelee Sobieski) is called into the meeting with the headmaster (Thomas Sanne) of a private school where she teaches art. He accuses her of trying to be an “art therapist” but starts making inappropriate advances while firing her. But then, inexplicably, he arranges her to take a live-in position at an estate, Bly House, where she will raise two children Miles (Christian Olson) and Flora (Gabrielle Adam). Is this so she keeps quiet about his own abuses?
Soon, though, a menace grows, She learns that Miles has been expelled from school, and eventually that he may have been sexually abused. Around the estate she starts seeing faces, ghosts. A long sequence of incidents occurs, that tests whether the ghosts are real, in her own mind, or whether she is becoming one herself.
The music in Britten’s opera was interesting in that it bordered on using twelve-tone technique. As with “Peter Grimes” and “Billy Budd”, Britten was seen as willing to skirt the topic of homosexuality in a time that it was taboo. In the movie, there is a violin passage that seems to come from Britten.
I await the DVD for Jody Wheeler’s “The Dark Place” on Dec. 2. I don’t know whether the story is based on the James novella, but it sounds as if it is.