This British dark fantasy film was based on Catherine Storr's Marianne Dreams, which it vaguely resembles.
The cast includes Ben Cross (Chariots of Fire) and Gemma Jones (Sense and Sensibility, Bridget Jones' Diary), but the lead role is played by little-known Charlotte Burke, in her one and only big screen appearance.
Burke stars as Anna Madden, a troubled girl whose alcoholic, emotionally distant father works overseas. Her mother (an awkward, wooden-faced Glenne Headly) with whom she shares a spiteful love/hate relationship, is a business professional of some description, and has little time for Anna's angst.
Burke was actually 14 years old at the time Paperhouse was made, but her small face, short stature, and immature body allowed her to pass for the 11 year old Anna. Incredibly, we still get a bath scene in which she is briefly shown topless.
Anna's mother smokes like a chimney, casually flicking ash and half- finished cigarettes out the window of her Saab while exchanging insults with her daughter and agonising over her frayed relationship with her husband. At one point she slaps Anna across the face, and Anna barely reacts. This is a family in which domestic violence is part of everyday life.
In an unrelated scene, Anna chats with her slutty school friend Karen (a frisky Sarah Newbold, who eventually found her way back to cinema in 2004 as assistant supervising producer for Juliette Soubrier's La dernière visite) while they both try on makeup and discuss the merits of snogging (Karen boasts that she's had four different boys in one night).
Having established that Anna is an irritating little bitch, the movie takes a U-turn and asks us to sympathise as her life is disrupted by supernatural shenanigans. She enters a dream world where she meets Marc (a languid Elliott Spiers, who looks like someone who's about to die in the next 6 years, which he actually did) and discovers that her actions in the real world affect events in his.
Marc and Anna hit it off surprisingly well for two kids who aren't very likable (I kept hoping that Anna would push Marc out the window, and even offered to do it for her at one point) and together they try to solve the mystery of their curiously intertwined existential dilemma. Resolution is possible, but it must come at a terrible price. Who will pay: Anna, or Marc? (By this time I was hoping it would be Marc, because he's a boring little scrote whereas Anna is quite cute once you get past her bitchiness and 1980s hair).
The movie works on a number of levels: psychological, philosophical, and societal. The overarching theme is of course the onset of puberty, and the trauma this inflicts on Anna's damaged psyche. A secondary motif is Marc's helplessness, counterbalanced by a disturbingly Oedipal theme in the third act, where Anna's father makes a surprise entrance in a manner not conducive to filial piety.
Paperhouse is far from perfect, but the remastered 1080p print corrects the inconsistent 'dark wash' palette of the original, boosting saturation levels to decent values and rebalancing the skin tones. Director Bernard Rose was a little too fond of the so-called 'scratch cut' technique (which initially gives the impression that you're watching one of those dreadful Scott Shrosbree films) but it somehow works better than expected.
I rate Paperhouse at 24.97 on the Haglee Scale, which works out as a perky 7.5 on IMDb.
Action / Drama / Fantasy
Action / Drama / Fantasy
Anna is becoming lost in the loneliness of her own world when she discovers she can visit another, a house she has drawn herself and occupied by a young disabled boy. But as she discovers more of the links between her fantasy world and the mundane present, she is drawn only deeper into a dream turning into a nightmare.
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December 18, 2013 at 12:30 PM