Saturday, December 04, 2004

"Gothika" and the Mind

Gothika. 2004. Dir. Mathieu Kassovitz. Perf. Halle Berry, Robert Downey Jr., Charles Dutton, John Carroll Lynch, Bernard Hill, Penélope Cruz, Dorian Harewood, Bronwen Mantel.

Miranda Grey (Berry) is a psychiatrist with a good, if draining, job; a loving and affectionate husband, and a lot of intelligence and compassion. Her job requires intelligence, discernment, and patience, and she usually succeeds. On one particularly trying day, however, she drives home in the rain, meets a shivering young girl, and wakes up the next morning locked in a cell in her own mental hospital. Miranda quickly learns that understanding her own mental state doesn't mean she can cure herself, but she plunges headfirst into self-analysis, tinged with flashbacks and visions, until she realizes that her case is far more serious than she imagined. The remainder of the film blends mystery and motive together in a confusing pattern, holding the denouement until the last few minutes of the movie.

The soundtrack to Gothika is well-orchestrated and carefully blended to add additional suspense to the film. Often, fairly mundane scenes are undercut with eerie music to maintain a consistent suspense throughout the movie. The film editing was also exceptionally well done. Several scenes use abrupt changes to startle the viewers and strengthen similarities between particular characters. The shots as a whole are fast-paced, and the film relies heavily on close-up or mid-range camera work to build a particular feel of inti,acy bot only between Miranda and the camera, but also between the characters in the movie, many of whom are carefully linked by past or present experiences.

The actors are very well-matched in skill, and they are directed so effectively that they blend into a strong body of characters with no one seizing the spotlight. This is an achievement worthy of high commendation, and it helps make the film surprisingly cohesive for a horror movie. Even the minor characters are strong.

The down side to the film is some brief sexuality, language, and nudity. Is is not a film for children by any stretch of the imagination, but it could provide mental stimulation and an interesting entertainment for adults who are fond of mysteries and suspense.

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