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Allan has a hard time finding the Usher's house, which is known to be cursed... But he is a personal friend of Roderick Usher, who lives with his sick wife Madeline and a doctor. Roderick is painting a portrait of Madeline, but every pose exhausts her. Allan worries more and more... Written by
An artistically brilliant version of the famous story
As was inevitable, movies of the silent era depended on their imagery in a way that became less important after the introduction of sound. During the same time period there were a number of hugely significant art movements that would influence the relatively new medium of cinema. Art trends such as cubism, dada, expressionism and surrealism had enormous impact on films of the time. The Fall of the House of Usher is a good example of a film based on 19th century literature but brought to the screen via the artistic sensibilities of the day, namely expressionism and surrealism. Because of this, like its peers such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu, it has attained a timeless quality and it will always remain a fascinating art-horror film.
The plot-line such that it is, is about a man named Allan who visits his friend Roderick Usher at his remote mansion. Usher lives with his sick wife Madeline, who suffers from some mysterious unknown disease. He is obsessed in painting a portrait of her. She dies and Usher, unable to accept it, descends into madness.
The tone is definitely downbeat and this is reflected by the gloomy haunting imagery used throughout. The strikingly inventive visuals escalate as the film progresses as a way of reflecting Roderick Usher's journey into insanity. Billowing curtains, close-ups of a giant pendulum, a haunting painting of Usher's wife, a moon-lit trip to the mausoleum and swirling mist are just some of the details captured. The film is overloaded in creepy Gothic atmosphere. Production design is excellent, with the grounds of the mansion populated with dead trees and swirling mist, while the interior has enormously high ceilinged rooms decorated with mirrors, curtains and Gothic furniture. In keeping with the film's artistic bent, everything is photographed quite excellently with many close-ups and unusual angles. The overall feeling of the film is that of a fever-dream which is very much in keeping with the central character's damaged state of mind.
In the best silent films, the storyline is very much secondary to the ambiance. The Fall of the House of Usher is no different and is one of the greatest silent horror films. It's an often quite stunning mood piece and comes highly recommended.
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