Literary great graces the silver screen
“The Raven,” directed by: James McTeigue (V for Vendetta), written by: Ben Livingston, Hannah Shakespeare, released April 27.
A nod to the macabre, “The Raven” is not truly historically accurate, nor as over the top as Edgar Allan Poe actually was, but as an adoration, a glimpse back at 1849, an attempt to entertain with a literary bent, I found it enjoyable. Poe is depicted as the addict to alcohol and his own published word that he was. Therein lies the crux of the film to me.
There is a killer on the loose, paying homage to Poe’s works, recreating and embellishing on “The Murders of the Rue Morgue,” and “The Pit and the Pendulum.” The murderer leaves taunting, intellectual clues as to his next intended crime, which a Baltimore detective needs Poe himself to help unravel. This becomes imperative as Poe’s intended, Emily, becomes caught up in the danger, abducted at her own birthday socialite ball and stuffed into a coffin to await her death. This beating of the telltale heart is what drives Poe to comply with the killer’s demands – publish stories concocted of the fresh grisly scenes in the Baltimore Patriot for all the town to see. He is a vane man, this killer; he wishes to be a part of the author’s stories. The irony is that Poe has been struggling with his writing at the time, unable to get published.
Throughout the movie the raven makes appearances as harbinger of ill fate. Other poems of Poe’s make appearance, such as Annabel Lee (his last composed full length poem) in the form of a love note to Emily. Like his life full of doomed romance, the film carries a melodramatic tone, tragic and lovelorn. Here I believe that the film is spot on. Edgar was a troubled soul; this much we do know. Public historic record has shown his self inflicted torture. “The Raven” shares this but also gives a mild yet darkly entertaining thrill. The murders were mostly portrayed in second light. One doomed character, facing the pendulum, faced the grisly end on screen, befitting a theatrical version of the tale. The others were mere messengers of evidence; director McTeigue may have dropped the ball, missing the opportunity to truly shock audiences further.
There are errors in fact throughout, regarding such things as publish dates, usage of words given the time, and the fact that Poe did indeed write about sailors and the sea whereas the character John Cusak plays denies doing so. Given my thrill at having a literary based film to enjoy about one of my favorite authors, I overlooked such things while in my theatre seat. I was, at times, at the edge of that seat, as chase ensued.
Critics examine these details and share them in warning to viewers and readers. My recommendation is to see it while you can. I enjoyed it, and what’s even better, the film inspired my reluctant reader teenaged son to request my copies of Poe’s works to look over.