House of Voices (Saint Ange)
France: 23 June 2004
OK, so after making such a big thing about how much of a fraidy cat I am when it comes to horror movies, here I am reviewing a horror movie. What’s up with that?
By the way, my offer still stands. I would love to have one of you do a guest movie review. Right now I’m currently sorting through the many many applications I’ve received.
Actually there are limits to my fraidy cathood. This is a ghost story basically. It’s creepy along the lines of The Sixth Sense, back when M. Night “What a Twist” Shyamalan still had a few tricks up his sleeve, but not evil scary. Sarah Palin creepy but not quite Michelle Bachmann scary.
Here’s the thing, I believe that ghosts might exist. Some people feel that ghosts are the spirits of people who have unfinished business here on earth, that’s the premise of The Sixth Sense, Ghost, and many other stories. One of my unsuccessful screenplays was about two ghosts. I don’t have a problem theologically with accepting that there are things going on between this world and the next that we pitiful little humans don’t understand. One of my favorite Shakespeare lines is this one from Hamlet:
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
It’s pretty much my answer to everything I don’t understand…which is everything.
While I may be comfortable with the idea of ghosts, not so much with actual ghosts. When we first moved into the house we bought in So Cal (that Tania and Boodles still live in), Tania and others said that they felt a presence in the house, but not a malevolent presence. We prayed and did all sorts of things to make sure that any evil spirits weren’t going to be sharing the house with us and our baby, and eventually we were satisfied that there weren’t any, but Tania and her Mother both said that they had sensed another person in the room, and even felt someone brushing past them. Again, not a malevolent seeming thing…just a thing.
I, however, let it be known that I wanted nothing to do with any otherworldly entities that might be in the house: “No offense. Nothing against you. I’m sure you’re just the nicest spectre that’s ever haunted any house ever but, if it’s all the same to you, leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone. Don’t try to talk to me or make me solve mysteries surrounding your untimely death, don’t ask me to do things, none of that. In return I won’t charge you rent or call Bill Murray and Co. to come and get your wraithlike ass.”
It must have worked because I never saw/heard/felt anything in the two years or so that I lived there.
Saint Ange is a Catholic orphanage in the French Alps, in 1958 a young boy is killed in a mysterious accident and the powers that be decide to ship the children out to other orphanages or families while they decide what to do with the decaying old building. A young maid named Anna (Virginie Ledoyen) arrives just as the children and the imperious director of St. Ange, Mme. Francard, are leaving. Before she gets on her bus, a young girl runs up to Anna and whispers, “Watch out for the scary children.” Anna is one of only three people left at St. Ange. The other employee is Ilinca – a matronly cook who has worked there for a long time (Dorina Lazar), and then there’s Judith.
Played by actress and model Lou Doillon, Judith is, in the vernacular, effed up. Although we’re never told how old she is, she’s probably 16 or 17. She’s a child in a woman’s body, the only child remaining of what Mme. Francard calls “The Earth’s damned:” War orphans, the youngest victims of the Nazi’s atrocities.
As is the case with many haunted houses throughout film history, St. Ange has its secrets. So does Anna, she has a big one, and her secret leads her to explore the secrets of the old orphanage and its former charges, some of whom seem to still be around. Anna enlists the help of Judith in her quest, and seemingly spends all her time doing it. There are, like, two scenes of her working, after that it’s just traipsing around looking for ghosts. The house doesn’t give up its secrets easily, and neither does the movie. This movie is not a scare-a-minute roller coaster, and it also doesn’t wrap itself up in a nice bow at the end either. If you watch it with someone else, you might even be divided about what everything meant and what exactly happened. To me, that’s a good thing.
…and it’s a big but (I cannot lie).
I have a major problem:
The version of the movie that I got from Netflix is in English. I initially thought that this was a choice the filmmakers made, but it appears that the movie was released in French as Saint Ange and then dubbed into English and retitled. The dubbing seems to have been done by the original actors and, as far as dubbing goes, it’s well done; the first time I watched it I couldn’t tell. But I’m a purist, I don’t want to watch a movie that’s been censored for TV, I don’t want to watch a colorized version of a movie that was filmed in black and white, and I don’t want to watch a movie that’s been dubbed. Even if it’s been well dubbed – and apparently via new technology they can alter actor’s mouths so that it looks seamless – I still don’t want to see it, it’s like hiring the world’s best painter to paint your house puke green and French’s mustard yellow. I don’t mind subtitles, maybe that makes me an outlier among modern American moviegoers but, in spite of my ADHD, I have the ability to watch actors speak in a language I don’t understand and read subtitles. At the same time, iknorite? Apparently the filmmakers or (more likely) the studio didn’t feel that us Amuricans would be able to multitask like that.
The Misplaced Boy MST3K Scale:
I don’t like being spoon fed or underestimated. Although this is a pretty good movie, as a result of the dubbing issue I can only give House of Voices (Saint Ange) a score of…
The movie is also available to watch on Hulu, but it appears to be the same version. Poop!
Random Quote Whore Quote:
House of Voices is a vile, statelier, secessionist of a movie! Virginie Ledoyen is washy!!!