Brazil, 1932, during the coffee crisis, Laura takes a job for a rich man to go to his coffee plantation and be in charge of his niece and nephew and to take care of their education. While attempting to take full control of the situation at the plantation, Laura starts hearing and seeing things no one else is, things she may be imagining or simply the only one who can hear and see them.
Through the Shadow is the latest adaptation of Henry James’ 1898 novel The Turn of the Screw with some changes by writers Nelson Caldas, Adriana Falcao, Walter Lima Jr., and Guilherme Vasconcelos and directed by Walter Lima Jr. They take a well-known and well-loved move and make it their own. There being about a half a dozen cinematic takes on this story, this one adapts the story and moves it to Brazil to a coffee plantation, changing a few details while keeping the main story details intact. The story is handled well and the supernatural elements work well within the settings.
The characters’ names have been adapted to go with the new location with the governess Laura played by Virginia Cavendish who leads the cast and characters well. She’s the backbone of the film and has a strong presence, her performance sets the tone. She shows a natural care for the children and nice restraint when it comes to the supernatural happenings while bringing a variation to a character many actresses have played before her. The children under her care are renamed Elisa and Antonio and retrain most of the characteristics from the usual adaptations. Actress Mel Maia and actor Xander Valois are both adorable and creepy. The way they act around potential ghosts and how their attitudes switch shows that they have a good grasp of their emotions and how to show them. They are both very talented and very well chosen.
Through the Shadow is a stunning looking film. The cinematography by Pedro Farkas creates an ethereal look to some of the scenes at the plantation, showing the house, the burning of the crops, the lake in a way that adds to the story and its supernatural elements. These elements show a lot of restraint in the effects used to bring them to the screen. These visual effects by Tadeu Frede bring the ghosts in and out of view in almost soft ways, creating moments of uncertainty more than scary ones. Also needing to be noted are the impeccable costume design by Valeria Stefani who created perfect looking costumes that are somber with a few touches of colors for the children. These costumes all stay period appropriate in colors, designs, and fabrics throughout the film, sowing a strong knowledge of the period and design.
Through the Shadow is an adaptation that works and respects the spirit of the novel by having ghosts that are not there to give quick scares or gross out. The film is a slow moving one while being stunning and eerie. It’s a successful period piece with great attention to details while keeping the spirit of Henry James’ work.