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And it's got a Haunted House in it - Mix Conversation Session 28/10/15

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Today’s session was heavily influenced by Halloween songs for children. We have someone who teaches little children and apparently, singing songs about cricky cracky skeletons is a good way of teaching six year olds the parts of the body in English! There is also a spooky version of the gruesome old classic nursery rhyme “Three Blind Mice (see how they run)". It goes something like this:

Three creepy spiders, see how they crawl,

Two wicked witches, see how they fly,

One spooky ghost, see how it haunts . . . . etc.

This gave us plenty of unusual vocabulary to play with . . . the guy staring at the girls at the swimming pool is “creepy” . . .  “crawl” is also what babies do before they walk . . .  “wicked” can mean something really cool in some circles. But it was the verb “to haunt” that really sparked off the debate. A tricky word to put into Spanish . . . a haunted house is either “enchanted” or “bewitched” (encantada/enbrujada), neither of which is specifically about ghosts. Ghosts themselves don’t exactly haunt, they “prowl” or “hang around” (rondar). If I were to say “if you kill me, I will come back and haunt you” in Spanish, I would have to say that I will “appear before you”, or perhaps “torment” you.

All this, of course, led us onto discussing Guillermo Del Toro’s new movie, Crimson Peak, which is in the cinemas this week, even in the south of Tenerife. Where else could it have led us?

Guillermo Del Toro is a Mexican film director living in exile. He can’t live in Mexico anymore because they keep kidnapping members of his family. His film making career looks like he has been alternating Hollywood blockbusters to fund unusual and non-commercial Spanish gothic horror films, notably; “The Devil’s Backbone”   (2001 – set during the Spanish Civil War) and “Pan’s Labyrinth”  (2006 – set during the Franco dictatorship). These two films, which he wrote, produced and directed, are idiosyncratic masterpieces.

And now, Crimson Peak is his first of this genre in the English language and is set in a crumbling mansion in Cumbria, England.  Also written and produced by himself, it is a gothic romance, not a horror film . . . he insists. And he relishes working with the tropes and within the boundaries of a genre.

He says;

 “I think you can really subvert the machinery once you are inside, the best way to be free is to have confines, there are many things we can do counter to the traditional gothic . . . for example, one early decision I made was that I wanted to make all the male characters useless rather than the typical rescuer . . . . . .”

And it has a haunted house in it.

Then we listened to a BBC radio interview with Del Toro where he explained the differences between gothic romances and horror. He has been deeply influenced by books and films like The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Rebecca and Frankenstein. He explains that in a horror film, the (haunted) house is itself evil . . . but in gothic romances the house represents the state of the characters . . . . Manderlay is Mrs Danvers in Rebecca . . .  Rochester is fused with his mansion in Jane Eyre . . . Miss Havisham is expressed by her mansion and her wedding cake in Great Expectations, and so on. And so, in this new movie, Crimson Peak, it is the family that is the horror, and the mansion is a sort of rotting carcass that they live in. He also mentions Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” where the house represents the decay of the family.

Then there are the ghosts . . . Del Toro says that the birth of gothic romance is the romantic spirit rebelling against the age of reason. He quotes Henry James as saying that in gothic romance the ghosts represent the past and they try to impede the movement towards the future.

You have to admire this man; to be so eloquent about a culture that isn’t his own. When he is accused of making the film exaggerated and operatically over the top, he defends himself by quoting Lord Byron.

Who doesn’t want to rush out to see this film?

The audio file is in the dropbox.

General vocabulary work: we looked at expressions like “I can’t help it”, and explored the difference between being polite and being educated which gets confusing in Spanish.

Next week . . . . we move into Victorian comedy with the first installment of “The Importance of being  Earnest” by Oscar Wilde.


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