Directed by: #DamianDraven
Of course, spectres hanging over creative types is a central theme to Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven, and there is certainly one that’s been hanging over the classic poem since 1990. No, it was nothing to do with the author’s lost love; it is in fact that great literary figure, Homer J Simpson, who wrestled with the winged wonder in the first Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror and, despite a lavish production, it’s not a spirit that director and #filmmaker Damian Draven is able to excise here.
Lavish is certainly the word and, from an aesthetic point of view, Draven’s version of this literary great is mightily impressive for a short film. The costumes feel rich and appropriate for the period, the room is stunningly decorated, and the cinematography employs just a hint of soft-focus to give the sense that money has been spent. The sound design, too, has clearly been put together by people who know their way around the art of Foley: each flap of The Raven’s wing and footstep produces a whole heap of atmosphere, backed by a piano score which, if maybe a little ripe, fits the bill quite nicely.
That also applies to Michael Bates in the lead role, every bit the classical interpretation of Poe, which is both a compliment and a disappointment. His theatrical reading (imagine Jonathan Pryce as played by Simon Callow) is endemic of Draven’s short: it’s unbearably stagey in places. In a theatre, his oversized reading of the poem would be effective, but it fails to translate to the cinema screen effectively, never entirely getting the real emotions across believably.
The direction, too, fails to do anything new, mainly by relying on workmanlike camerawork and an overly-familiar era setting. It’s uninspiring despite being handsomely mounted, and wouldn’t feel out of place in a GCSE classroom. In the end, this version of The Raven is like any episode of The Simpsons from the last fifteen years: you know it’s well put together, you’re glad it’s there, but you can’t help wishing for something a little more inventive.
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