Life after Harry Potter

On Thursday, Jan. 19, an email was sent out to the English and film students at Laurier, announcing a competition to be held by Alliance Films — the winner of which would be given the chance to interview Daniel Radcliffe at the Toronto premiere of his first post-Potter film, The Woman in Black.

Being one of the competitions three finalists, I was able to attend the Jan. 26 premiere at the Scotiabank Theatre in downtown Toronto of a film that won’t hit theatres for another week.

Prior to the screening, film critic Richard Crouse introduced Radcliffe to the audience, who welcomed him with applause. Radcliffe thanked the audience for attending and the film immediately began to roll as the actor sat down to enjoy some popcorn of his own.

In a question and answer period following the screening Radcliffe discussed topics such as his Saturday Night Live hosting appearance earlier this month and the importance of moving on from Harry Potter.

Based on Susan Hill’s 1983 novel of the same name, The Woman in Black follows Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe), a young widower father and lawyer who is sent to Eel Marsh House in a secluded village in England to organize the legal papers of a recently deceased woman.

As he goes through the seemingly boring task, he soon realizes that the ghost of an angry and ruthless woman — the woman in black — has been terrorizing the town. It is said among the townsfolk that whenever the woman in black is seen, a child dies.

After several encounters, Arthur quickly realizes that he must put the woman in black to rest with the hope that the town will salvage their children (and their sanity) and does so with the help of a man named Mr. Daily (Ciaran Hinds) who plays a much larger role in the film than in the novel.

Hinds delivers a surprisingly strong performance as the one man who manages to stretch the limits of the town’s anger in order to assist Arthur in settling the matters of the woman in black.

His character’s willingness to let go of the past serves as a powerful commentary on the importance of doing the right thing regardless of what others think.

Despite its relation to the 1983 novel and other stage and film adaptations, this film might take some audiences by surprise. In the original novel, Arthur reflects as an old man on his past experience with the woman in black.

Similarly to the novel, the audience chronologically follows Arthur’s journey to Eel Marsh House and witnesses the events with him, but the ending was significantly different from the novel and slightly disappointing. However, the film did offer a powerful conclusion to the emotionally draining film.

With The Woman in Black, director James Watkins delivers a terrifying film about the shadows that invade our lives and forces his audience to feel just as suffocated and haunted as Arthur.

Watkins does not fail to reveal to his audience what hides behind locked doors and the power behind Arthur’s own curiosity convinces the audience that they should feel curious too.

With a powerful performance from Radcliffe, it is clear the actor intends to break away from the Potter persona he has been associated with for the last ten years. His portrayal of Arthur Kipps marks the first step in forging his way as a versatile actor.

The film offers little dialogue for its viewers to follow and the silence itself is enough to drive you mad with fear. The musical score acts as its own character since it provides each scene with a feeling of apprehension, mystery and tension.

Carefully paced, The Woman in Black offers a horrifying depiction of the strength beneath revenge, equally matching its horror with Radcliffe’s emotional disconnect from the surrounding world. The Woman in Black opens in theatres on Feb. 3.

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