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El Orfanato (The Orphanage)

by Lisa Adamowicz Kless

Heartbreaking, horrifying and masterfully done, The Orphanage is a film that layers beauty with agony. Touching on the seemingly improbable co-existence of evil and love within one person, it also delves headlong into the subject of what these things can compel some people to do.

Spanish actress Belén Rueda shines in her role as Laura, who, along with her husband, Carlos, and their young son, Simón, moves back to the orphanage where she was raised. With a dream of opening the home up to children with special needs, their excitement starts to fade early on. In the tradition of most films set in rambling, spooky-looking old houses, odd things begin to happen. Simón starts to talk about a new friend named Tomás, whom, of course, only he can see. Like a labyrinth where she’s being pulled deeper and deeper at every turn, suspicion that much more than meets the eye is happening deepens with Simón’s revelations about himself, their new home and Tomás. Complicating things even further is a visit from a social worker named Benigna; it becomes apparent that she has ulterior motives for her interest in the house and the family.

It would spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet for me to say much more about the plot, but if you enjoy horror that’s more subtle but still keeps you at the edge of your seat, The Orphanage delivers. Blood and gore is almost non-existent, and the only torture to be found is psychological. What you’re left with is a film that lingers in and manipulates suspense to scare its viewers, and does it well. For parents, this film delves into some of the dark places that we avoid thinking about. As Rueda said in an interview however, even if you don’t have children, the movie still plays upon other basic human fears. Anyone who’s ever heard a strange creak or bump in the night or dismissed away a shadow in their peripheral vision will feel the fight or flight response rising up in them in more than a few instances during the film.

Simón (Roger Príncep)  & Laura (Belén Rueda)
Filmed in Barcelona and Llanes, Spain, it also features Geraldine Chaplin (Charlie Chaplin’s daughter), in one of the creepier scenes in the film, as a psychic named Aurora who tries to help the family. Sound plays an important part, not only in that particular sequence, but throughout the entire movie; pieces will immediately fall into place for you towards the end when you realize that there were auditory clues all along.

Aurora (Geraldine Chaplin)
As is my complaint with many foreign films, if you don’t speak the language fluently, there are some nuances that get lost when subtitles are used. It’s a small price to pay though; The Orphanage uses so many wonderful cinematic devices and evokes so many different emotions that it's sure to stay with you long after the end credits roll.

For more information visit their IMDb page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0464141/