A-Ron’s Film Rewind Presents: A 15th anniversary celebration of Jennifer Connelly in “Dark Water”. A remake of the 2002 Japanese Horror film, “Dark Water” in this first English language film from Walter Salles, who mixes moody suspense with spot-on social satire and blends it into a heartbreaking supernatural drama. Jennifer Connelly is uncanny at portraying someone with a bruised sensibility and in “Dark Water”, she dominates the screen as an emotional and psychologically troubled divorced, single mother. Connelly is surrounded by superb actors, including: Pete Postlethwaite, John C. Reilly, Tim Roth and adorable young star Arial Gade. “Dark Water” isn’t only inspired by the filmmaking of Polanski, but so is his films in itself, being a riff on his 1968 horror classic “Rosemary’s Baby”. Although it most evokes, another Roman Polanski film “Repulsion”, which is a tale of mental instability and bad real estate. Salles directs with a deft and tense hand by instilling a little mixture of styles from Hitchcock and Polanski. While “Dark Water” is far from scary or creepy, the tension is very much there and it is very fascinating, particularly because of the mother and daughter relationship is engrossing to watch. “Dark Water” is a rich and dramatic supernatural psychological thriller, that is equal parts quiet, creepy, tragic and visually gorgeous.
I’ve got a complete admiration for Jennifer Connelly, as many should be. I have been ever since 1991, when I saw “The Rocketter”, I fell head over heels in love with the tall and slender beauty. Films like: “Labyrinth”, “Career Opportunities”, “Higher Learning”, “Dark City”, “Requiem for a Dream”. My admiration for her beauty slowly grew into an admiration for her talent. I thought she was the best thing in Ang Lee’s “The Hulk”, she gave an incredible, underrated and Oscar worthy performance in “House Of Sand & Fog”. Then she actually did win a deserving Oscar, for 2001’s “A Beautiful Mind” from Ron Howard.
Her performance in 2005’s supernatural drama “Dark Water” is another considerably understated performance. It just might be one of the best movies of 2005 that nobody saw. “Dark Water” was following the trend, that was especially popular in the 2000’s, of adapting Japanese horror films (or known as J-Horror), for the American audiences. Based on the short story “Floating Water” by Koji Suzuki, who also wrote the Ring trilogy and based off the 2002 Japanese horror film directed by Hideo Nakata.
Directing “Dark Water” in his first English language film is Walter Salles, the director of the critically acclaimed “The Motorcycle Diaries”. Salles mixes moody suspense with spot-on social satire and blends it into a pretty heartbreaking supernatural drama as well. “Dark Water” really examines not only the bond between a mother and a daughter, but how easily children can fall through the cracks in adults own self-centered pursuits and problems.
It’s said that Bill Mechanic, the former chairman of 20th Century Fox, saw Hideo Nakata’s original version of “Dark Water”, shortly after its release in Japan and had bought the rights to the movie five minutes after he left the theater. Jennifer Connelly plays a fragile divorced mother. Under pressure of a custody fight, she finds her daughter and herself an apartment in a run down building on Roosevelt Island, right off the shore of Manhattan. Adding further drama to their plight, she discovers a eerie, dark water leaking through the ceiling of their new apartment as they are targeted by the ghost of it’s former resident.
Jennifer Connelly is uncanny at portraying someone with a bruised sensibility. She dominates the screen, as such an emotional tuning fork you can tell the second when she gets bad vibes or starts to come down with one of her characters many migraines. He surrounds Connelly with a cast of superb male actors. There’s the combative ex-husband (Dougray Scott), the grouchy building super (Pete Postlethwaite), the willfully upbeat apartment manager (John C. Reilly) and Tim Roth as Connelly’s lawyer.
A New York City apartment. A woman with a tenuous grip on reality, who has hallucinatory visions that seem to be real. Evil lives in this building. “Dark Water” which, in itself is kind of a riff on “Rosemary’s Baby”, the 1968 Roman Polanski movie about a woman convinced she’s been impregnated by Satan. But what film it most evokes is another Roman Polanski film “Repulsion”, a tale of mental instability and bad real estate.
“There’s abandonment, urban solitude and a woman facing a host of inner demons,” says director Walter Salles. “Polanski did all that in Rosemary’s Baby and earlier, in Repulsion. No blood, no gore. No videotapes eating people. Just stories dealing with primal fears, primal questions that, to me, are far more frightening than watching somebody’s head get lopped off”.
“Dark Water”, screenwriter Rafael Yglesias comments on the Asian horror film market: “They continue to make movies the way we used to make them, like Hitchcock used to make them. They were influenced by us and now we’re being influenced back by ourselves in a strange way”. Polanski is the common denominator mentioned by everyone on the “Dark Water” set. In-fact Yglesias had worked with Polanski before, adapting Ariel Dorfman’s play “Death and the Maiden” for the big screen in 1994.
“I always wanted to do a homage to Rosemary’s Baby, Yglesias says. “And I was convinced that the original Dark Water was influenced by Rosemary’s Baby”. The connection to “Rosemary’s Baby”, Salles says, goes beyond insider details like naming John C Reilly’s “Dark Water” character Mr. Murray, which is the same name of the real estate agent in “Rosemary’s Baby”.
“It’s in finding the horror in ordinary things like elevators, washing machines, faucets. People connect to those things. It’s normal things that go bump in the night”, says Salles. Screenwriter Yglesias adds: “Anyone who has lived in New York knows that New York plumbing is scary. There’s no leap of faith involved there”.
Roman Polanski in “Repulsion” showed his skills as a master filmmaker, that you could make an eerie horror film by turning an apartment into a torture chamber for a troubled woman. While Salles lacks Polanski’s knack for airtight construction and stylized claustrophobia, he still directs with a deft and tense hand by instilling a little mixture of styles from Hitchcock and Polanski.
While “Dark Water” is far from scary or creepy, the tension is very much there and it is very fascinating, particularly because Ceci and Dahlia’s relationship is engrossing to watch. Dahlia is aware of her psychological problems but clings to Ceci and anxiously attempts to keep up with her changing life while making adjustments all her own. Their scenes together make for some of the more compelling moments of the film, as Arial Gade who plays Ceci is absolutely adorable and gives a very bittersweet and nuanced performance. Though I really enjoy “Dark Water” it’s not without its minor flaws.
“Dark Water” evolves from a supernatural mystery to a sad tragedy that ends with a heart breaking climax. While Salles builds dread masterfully, his remake really captures the genuine emotions behind its characters. “Dark Water” is more Roman Polanski with a handling of Hitchcock to become a rich and dramatic supernatural psychological thriller, that’s a movie about haunted homes, tortured pasts and psychological gut-punches. Equal parts quiet, creepy, tragic and visually gorgeous.