Crimson Peak (Another Look)
by Lisa Dib
Although Martin has already reviewed the film for Web Wombat, and well, I couldn’t help but want to discuss the film with you. I watched Crimson Peak with delight, the sort of joy reserved for films where I need not worry about gratuitous sexual violence or absurd gender-based stereotypes (a film in the Victorian era has its small share of historically accurate sexism, but it serves the film rather than distracting from it.) It was a film that I would not necessarily vote Movie of the Year, but it was so aesthetically gorgeous that, with the added benefit of Aussie actor Mia Wasikowska in the lead role, I could not tear my eyes away.
Wasikowska’s Edith Cushing is cheeky, smart and, as the only child of a widower, happily solitary. Although never strictly stated, the film appears to be set in the 1890s, a time when the “New Woman” was coming into her own. Writer and speaker Sarah Grand coined this term in 1894 to describe the women that were shattering the Victorian idea/l of what women should and should not be and do. This “New Woman” was educated and independent, and no longer felt satisfied being relegated simply to typical female duties, like keeping a home, taking teas or raising wee ones.
Edith is a budding author, somewhere in her late teens/early twenties, and is happily breaking down societal expectations of womanhood and femininity; there is a scene in which she decides to type up her manuscript, and she is aware that her “feminine” handwriting will be working against her in such a sexist era. She gives sass, and isn’t taken in by the obvious adoration from a childhood chum, Dr Alan “Friendzone” McMichael (Charlie Hunnam); the pressure to wed, and wed well, was strong in those days, but Edith is content to write and hang out with her Pa.
Edith is faced with a score of challenges from the get-go but always maintains the will to carry on and find the truth. When upsetting-looking spectres appear around her, she is suitably terrified, but curious and vigilant. She resolves to figure out why. Edith’s opposition in the film, Lucille Sharpe, played so wonderfully melodramatically by Jessica Chastain, is the dark to her light; there is only a smattering of the ‘good vs evil’, Madonna/Whore complex, because the characters have enough vivacity (Edith) and intense, brooding mystery (Lucille) to keep the viewer intensely paying attention, hungry for clues.
Edith falls in love with Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), Lucille’s brother of course, and the film follows...well, all that happens there. No spoilers here, because I genuinely want you to see this film. Don’t you want to see all the rich drapery, botanical symbolism and dreary-beautiful corridors creaking with terror and neglect? Edith’s relationship with Thomas doesn’t make her a secondary character by default, and she works in the film to outsmart and outrun everything that tries to take her down.