The Haunting of M (1981) VHSRip (SiRiUs sHaRe).avi
The Haunting of M (1981).rtf
The Haunting of M (1981)
This ghost story, set at the turn of the century, centers on the plight of elderly dowager Marianna (Sheelagh Gilbey), who is tormented by the alleged specter of a young man roaming the corridors of her mansion. After spotting a face in an old photograph that seems to match the old woman's description of the "visitor", Marianna's sister (Nina Pitt) decides to check things out and see if any of this is for real.
Sheelagh Gilbey ... Marianna
Nini Pitt ... Halina
Evie Garratt ... Daria
Alan Hay ... Karol
Jo Scott Matthews ... Aunt Teresa
William Bryan ... Marion
Peter Austin ... Stefan
Ernest Bale ... Stahu
Isolde Cazelet ... Yola
Varvara Pepper ... Irka
Peter Stenson ... Doctor
Jenny Greenaway ... Gypsy
Gwen Williams ... Cousin Julia
Ruby Melvin ... Cousin Maria
Willie Payne ... Priest
I had the good fortune to have seen `The Haunting of M' during its brief theatrical run. It was on an appropriately atmospheric, drizzly Berkeley evening in the now defunct Northside Theatre, a great little two-screen house that could probably have been shoehorned into an average-sized garage. I‘ve never forgotten this remarkable film. Unfortunately for me, and for all fans of the supernatural/ghost story film, it's unavailable, in video or any other medium, a fact that I confirmed during a very pleasant e-mail exchange, some months back, with Anna Thomas, the director (and wife of cinematographer Gregory Nava, who shot this film). Apparently even Ms. Thomas herself no longer has a copy. Having seen many films of this genre, I can say, without the slightest reservation, that `The Haunting of M' stands firmly in its front rank. Sadly, it will probably never be seen again. Given the demands of the stunned-by-overload market that drives much of the film industry's output, films like this may never even be made again. Although years have passed since I saw it, I can remember moments from the film vividly, as though I had seen them just a few days ago. `The Haunting of M' is a compact monument to what can be accomplished when a good story is handled with sensitivity and solid cinematic mechanics.
In `The Haunting of M', a 19th family is stalked by the ghost of a former resident of the area, a young man who died, in some tragic way as I recall, before he was able to marry. The young man's spirit has become enamored of one of the family's daughters, whose first name begins with the letter M. The ghost is first discovered hovering just visibly in a family photograph that was taken in an earlier scene, gazing longingly at the object of his affection. His outdated attire signals that, although he might be `there', he is probably not from then. The deceased presence is recognized by someone who knew him in life and speculation begins. At first, the family plays down this incident but their maid knows better. She has been aware for some time that `something walks the night'. Gradually, the ghost makes its presence and plans more evident.
As this film is now out of circulation, it's safe to share one stunning scene. A sibling of the haunted daughter hears the sister moaning, apparently during a nightmare, and enters her room to find the ghost seated in a rocking chair at the foot of her bed, staring at the sleeping girl. The sibling recoils in fright and the ghost vanishes, leaving the chair rocking gently. The scene was shot in very low light (the film is in color), at the edge of the film's ability to capture images. Not many film makers would take the risk of shooting a scene in which the central characters in the scene were almost invisible. Some parts of `The Godfather' were shot in quite muted light, using basically ambient lighting, giving the visuals an evocative sepia tone. This was considered something of a breakthrough in lighting design for the time. But the rocking chair scene in `The Haunting of M' was almost pitch black in comparison, and in this aspect lay its chilling impact. If you've ever been afraid of the dark, maybe one of those times during childhood when you were awake, but afraid to even open your eyes, this scene had the power to hurl you back to that place in an instant. There were no special effects, no fright masks leaping out, yet the scene resonated with relentless, supernatural intent. The spirit of the young man had entered the bedroom of the maiden. There was no turning back.
The film makers used another very effective device to excellent effect: the appearance of the entity in daylight. They were not the first to employ this approach, but they put a fascinating spin on their version. This approach can make powerful statement as it implies that the spirit's motivations are so coherent that they resist even the light of day. In one of the early scenes in `Night of the Living Dead', a classic in its own way, but primitive compared to `The Haunting of M', it is still daylight when the first zombie of many lurches into the visible background in a rural cemetery. The protagonists are engaged in a trivial spat as the zombie approaches unseen. It's possibly the best and most frightening scene in the entire movie.
Ms. Thomas and Mr. Nava went on to make the heart-rending `El Norte', which examines the lives of a teenaged brother and sister, undocumented refugees from a disintegrating Central American country, whose lacerated innocence meets its own disintegration in present-day Southern California. `The Haunting of M' is certainly not `El Norte'. It's an entirely different type of movie. But inside its particular and elegantly spooky envelope, its quality is unimpeachable. Its humanity is more stylized, as it must be in a period piece, but no less real. The film was beautifully photographed, in a natural, Vermeer-esque light. This, coupled with the restrained performances of its cast, gave `The Haunting of M' an unadorned quality, like an Amish hat. Films of this type will never appeal to adrenaline junkies, but this calm approach also throws up the most minimal of barriers between the screen and the viewer. One is gently drawn in. Everything becomes that much more real by implication. So it was with this modest yet excellent film. But when the time came for the scaries to begin, `The Haunting of M' absolutely delivered the goods.
I saw this movie over 20 years ago, but with a few others still haunts me. The music of Chopin and Janacek, together with the sepia dark images works very effective on your emotions and mood. Years after I can still feel the effects of this movie with the final epitome when the ghost tries to take the haunted M with him (to the world of ghosts?). A soft wind can be heard blowing through the trees, the music quite soft, sombre and romantic, the light is almost absent: all is set for this final important moment in the movie.
Together with the earlier movies of Ingmar Bergman, Antonioni and the also forgotten masterpiece of Schlöndorff "Die Fällschung" (destruction of Beirut), I rank this movie to the highest order of the art.
Great period piece but severely lacking in the spooky department. Sort of "little womenish". A lot to do with early 20th century victaoriana and Gibson girlish concerns and very little to do with a haunting, which, is supposed to be the point of the film. The one or two instances of the haunting are attention getters but it soon goes back to the days of gilded girl fantasies of horseback riding and tea parties without much focus on the plot. This movie had potential but it was wasted on build up and needless dialogue without any follow through. I was intrigued by the title because it was supposedly atmospheric and eerie but the atmosphere is not that of a movie about a haunting, rather it's that of a film about romanticized victorian days told in a sort of TV moviesh fashion. The Changeling with George C. Scott was a measuring stick against which others must come before. Unfortunately none have measured up, and this unfortunately doesn't either.