B26354 | Atlanta, GA | 11/02/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"On a dark and stormy night in a Swiss castle by the lake, the ménage à trois of Mary Godwin (played by the gorgeous Natasha Richardson), Percy Bysshe Shelley (Julian Sands), and Mary's clingy, childish step-sister Claire (Cyr), visit Lord Byron (Gabriel Byrne) their host, and his live-in doctor "friend" Polidori (Spall) for a night of ghost stories, creative exploration, and weird hallucinogenic experiences that range from the sexual to the horrific, out from which the stories Frankenstein and Vampyre were born, legend has it. These five come together this night to conjure up their true fears for fun by way of séance with a skull, but as it turns out, backfires considerably as the evening descends into a hell of bizarre and nightmarish images.
Claire is stalking the manipulative, selfish and sadistic Byron who has previously rejected her; the free-loving Shelley, who lives his life like he writes "I'm too restrained by narrative prose" is simply trying to escape the responsibilities of his mundane every day life it seems; Mary mourns the loss of her dead child and we learn, her fear is that she would give anything to bring it back to life (sound familiar?), and as for Byron and Poli (Byron's pet name for him), it's hard to tell what, if anything, they are seeking, except maybe some entertainment and opportunities for new sexual conquests. It's clear that of the group of five, Poli is the outsider, having appeared for the first time at the top of a staircase behind a goat that is apparently allowed to roam free around the house. Byron fails to introduce Poli to any of the guests properly and is even ganged up on at one point by Byron and Shelley after attacking them in a drug-induced frenzy with an unloaded pistol.
The beautiful and repulsive are married in some fascinating sequences, among the most impressive are Fuseli paintings come to life - Shelley stands naked on top of the castle in a thunderstorm and Mary becomes the dreaming woman in The Nightmare - the incubus clawing at her neck. Also captivating is what I believe to be one of the most erotic scenes ever to be caught on film: the sexual tension between Byrne and Richardson erupts when he attempts to seduce her by undermining the solidity of her relationship with Shelley is unlike anything I've ever seen. Byron receives a lukewarm slap across the cheek for his rude inference: but the slap she receives in return nearly takes her off her feet and he kisses her with a ferocity and hunger women have only fantasized about. Clearly she is aroused by this exchange and kisses him back, but when he insists on going a step further, she rejects him, conflicted by her feelings for Shelley. Why Byron lets her go, I'll never understand. She should have dumped Shelley - the chemistry between her and Byron is devastating. I wanted more! Great performances by these actors, intense sexual imagery, and the glorification of the grotesque make this movie an interesting jewel for fans of the British Romantic and Horror genres. And where else can you see Julian Sands and Gabriel Byrne share a passionate kiss? Nowhere I tell you! Nowhere!"
Paul Ess. | Holywell, N.Wales,UK. | 03/01/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Considering he's supposed to be 'obsessed with the image' Ken Russell's 'Gothic' is notable for what it leaves to the imagination.
Russell is no tyro-hack, he's seen 'the Haunting' and 'the Innocents' and knows an in-tune audience will pick up subtle terrors which may or may not be glowering in dark corners, or in the dull recess of a guilty imagination.
Is that a branch scraping the window, or something much more sinister trying to gain access? Russell's anti-thriller gives no answers, even in a rather disquieting epilogue, where the excesses of the previous night are 'explained'
Briefly; Don Boyd at Virgin Vision had a literate script on his hands. The core plot had Percy and Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, his pregnant lover Claire, and a snide, repressed biographer, Dr. Polidori all spending a Saturday night at a mansion in Geneva.
Now, thought Don, let's see what happens if we give 'em loads of drugs, vats of wine, throw in a thunder-storm, a haunting, some scene-stealing goats, and let 'em go.
Now who do we get to direct? Hmm...
Russell doesn't disappoint, (he NEVER does, all his films, good or bad, have got something of interest in them) his imagination is at full throttle here.
It's frequently a furious and upsetting picture.
You can feel that creepiness as the protagonists decide to hold a séance, to call their darkest fears to exist in this world. Russell has a field day illustrating in detail what a houseful of stoned, tortured geniuses are afraid of in the depths of their debasement, with their guard temporarily down.
One grotesque tableau follows another but Russell never makes it easy for the rattled viewer. As to what's real and what's not, that's left open, as is the interpretation at the end.
Was it all suggestion and hallucination? This reviewer isn't convinced, and Russell's leaving only the vaguest of clues.
It also works on a madcap comedy level. If you sit and think about what you've just seen, you WILL laugh, as with many of Russell's movies.
There are many redolent Russell repulses to rejoice in. A gory stigmata, a make-your-own-mind-up abortion, leeches, rats, incest, slime... In fact, if you can think of it, it's probably here, dowsed in Thomas Dolby's vivid score and competing like crazy with all the other fierce imagery.
There's an attractive funeral pyre sequence, filmed in the lake district involving Shelley. In his autobiography, Russell indicates this is how he would ultimately like to be 'disposed' of.
Good idea, better than cold earth, hope the weather's good so the 40 piece orchestra - assembled by Melvyn Bragg - don't get sodden, as they play Liszt or the Who at full blast!
Performances are good; particularly Gabriel Byrne as 'mad' Lord Byron and Natasha Richardson as proto-feminist Mary Shelley (and I'd love to hear the advice mum Vanessa Redgrave gave her about working with Russell. She may proclaim 'the Devils' to be her best film but she never worked with him again!), and I don't think Julian Sands performance as Shelley is as bad as reported either.
It's not great by any stretch but I've seen worse, and he IS playing a highly strung (out!?), self-suffering waif-in-a-storm, zonked out of his literary brains.
'Gothic' isn't Russell's best film but it is a good one. Compared to the output of most modern Hollywood directors, it's a masterpiece. It has wild imagery, some very tender and moving moments but most of all it has an atmosphere of utter dread, created masterfully by a visionary who knows instinctively how to use light and dark, sound and shadow and Richard Branson's money to make a looney entertainment about some of the worlds most respected and austere literary figures, verbally and physically abusing each other, raising the dead, ripping off their clothes and writhing round in slime.
A Ken Russell film, could it be anything else?"
Both good and bad...
ChibiNeko | Whereever I go, here I am. | 07/03/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'd had this movie for a while, but never got around to watching it. I finally sat down to watch it (just finished it actually) and was somewhat dissapointed and pleased at the same time. There are a lot of things in this movie that I'm sure are not historically accurate (other than the ones that obviously can't be verified), but it's obvious that the director did his research when he was making this movie. The actors are all well chosen, especially Gabriel Byrne.
The movie's appeal is that it's horror is more of the psychological aspect than the ghoul & ghost variety. Just like the title, the tale is very gothic and dark, which may not appeal to everyone. Some who are expecting a movie full of shocks and gore will be very dissapointed. There are shocks, but again... they are of the psychological variety.
The movie surrounds Percy Byce Shelley, Mary Godwin (who would later marry Shelley), Claire (Mary's step-sister), Lord Byron, & his personal physician Polidori. After a few too many drinks of laudnum (a very potent drug) and a botched seance, the group begins to see various frightening images. As to whether these images are fake or real, the decision is left up to the viewer. The ending is rather interesting, but I won't reveal it here. Unfortunately for us viewers, the film wasn't retouched when they transferred the film so it's very obvious that the film was dubbed directly from a VHS copy of the film. That's a pity, since there's some GORGEOUS imagery in this movie.
For the most part I'd recommend this movie to people who are willing to sit through a slow movie for some good payoff. There are some tedious moments to the film, but they're worth watching. I'd recommend renting this first to make sure that you like it. One thing is for sure, though- it's something you should watch twice so you can catch the things you missed the first go round. There's some campyness to the film, but it's all in good fun."