The House [Giulia Gandini, UK, 2017]
Three children speculate the authenticity of an age-old tale surrounding Fallbridge House, where for many years nobody has been seen to come or go. The house sits deep and deserted in a field of weeping willows that are coaxed into animation by an ominous wind. In the way that childhood fantasies allow, the house has grown to take on a mythical status, believed to be haunted, having eaten a young girl who it was claimed entered but never seen again.
The two boys of the trio tease their friend Ophelia, insisting she isn’t brave or “man” enough to approach the house. Irritated and with a point to prove Ophelia wanders, albeit with trepidation, over to the house. Now rattled the boys are betrayed by their cowardice as they scarper off to leave Ophelia to whatever fate might become of her. With baited breath, she knocks on the front door of the house and, in true ghostly fashion, the door opens without any assistance and as she steps past the threshold the door shuts behind her in the same manner…
The inside of the house is dark and gloomy. The young girl wanders with curiosity around the house, encountering old wedding photographs, a lady valet mannequin in a wedding dress and a music box that also springs into action unassisted. At this point Ophelia is startled by an old woman. She is far from a frightening old witch. A gentle and timid woman, she has been living there alone for many years.
The two sit down to talk as it transpires that woman is the little girl of the haunted house stories. She explains that her husband had left to find work the war, recalling fond memories of that time, but Ophelia learns that the husband hasn’t returned after all of these years. It is likely he has died but the old lady remains romantically optimistic that he is still alive but still has work to attend to in France, and so she waits in the house for the day of his return. Wizened by her own relatable experience of paternal abandonment, Ophelia offers insight and encouragement concerning the husband’s absence and the woman’s introversion, suggesting that perhaps he won’t return and that she enjoy life outside instead of waiting.
The House delicately balances sentimental realism with the curious whims of child fantasies, resulting in a charming and warm tale, which over a longer duration might approach something closer to historiographic metafiction. There are hints of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series and also called to mind films such as Monster House (Gil Kenan, USA, 2006) and The Bridge to Terabithia (Gábor Csupó, USA, 2007). Gandini’s ability to create suspense and dramatic tension is impressive, more so as she is a first-time filmmaker and this is a student project.
'The House' was a film submission in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2018.