Reading the Screen: The Woman in Black
Posted by: David Pitt
The Woman in Black, the new movie starring Daniel Radcliffe as a young British solicitor who comes to a small market town to tidy up the affairs of a deceased client and gets a bit more excitement than he bargained for, is based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Susan Hill.
If you’ve never read the book, you really should. It’s written in a good, old-fashioned Gothic style (“It was a yellow fog, a filthy, evil-smelling fog, a fog that choked and blinded, smeared and stained”), and it’s narrated by the solicitor, Arthur Kipps, from the vantage point of maturity — an older man reflecting on the events that scarred him in his youth. It’s a clever way of approaching the story: we see not only the events that took place, but the way they shaped Arthur’s life.
The book has been adapted for television, radio (twice) and the stage, but this is its first filmic adaptation. It’s a pretty faithful movie, too, sticking to the author’s use of mood and suggested terror, rather than overt horror-genre cliches and gore, to create an atmosphere. There are some differences, which I won’t reveal here, but they’re more structural than thematic.
Here’s the trailer for the movie: