Take a walk in the 1830’s New York with a detective who’s back
ull bluish-grey hues. Fog enfolding around a body hanging from a tree, a rope around its neck, legs touching the ground. Thick branches lightly caressing the swift water bending around jagged rocks. Smoothly weathered boulders covered in a breathtaking white sprinkled as far as the eye can see. Then, a pair of hands dip in the freezing loch of the 1830s Hudson.
With his reputation preceding him, the movie opens with a former detective Augustus Landor, played by Christian Bale who appears as a grief-stricken alcoholic. His daughter, Mathilde ran off a few years ago. Landor is called upon to investigate the gruesome murder of Cadet Leroy Fry. Captain Hitchcock hires the detective, determined to right the wrong, protect his institution at face value, and forget this case as soon as possible as a horror from the past.
In the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, we follow a gruff-looking wise man, the crevices in his face reflective of his years of experience. A dark-colored long coat and a top hat channel his reserved persona as a detective along with hiding the secrets that would never reach the world.
Perhaps best recognized by his character Dudley Dursley in Harry Potter, we see a completely different side of Harry Melling; Edgar Allen Poe truly embraced by him in spirit and mannerism. An odd, clingy fellow in the beginning his character is an accurate depiction; a perfect ode to what an eager Edgar, drawn in by both poetry and solving mysteries, must have been like in his early adulthood. His subtle actions, unfiltered thoughts, and lighthearted poetical jokes are a comforting presence as the macabre case unfolds in the background.
The story runs parallelly; the present is filled with voids from the past. Edgar fondly quotes his mother reminiscing her poetry, while Landor is tormented by the memories of his daughter, her figure disappearing as he wakes up from his nightmares. The age gap between them is seamlessly closed as they are united by the anguish and longing in their hearts for someone they doted over; separated by the abstruse decisions they took and secrets they withheld.
The story is riveting, portraying complex concepts such as honesty and justice, bullying, failure of rules and institutions that showcase a strong front but are rotten from the inside and the limits a family surpasses, to protect and to avenge their own.
Together, they set out to decrypt the letters received by cadets Fry and Ballinger, while fretting over why Stoddard ran away fearing for his life. It remains beyond their comprehension as to why only specific cadets are being killed in a satanic manner; their hearts are ripped out. Routines at the academy are altered as the powerful military cadets are drawn within four walls as a safety precaution.
Despite secretly recruiting the young to-be-poet as an aide, a month passes with the detective not being any closer to solving the murder when the killer takes a jab at his second victim Randolph Ballinger. Eventually, Augustus and Edgar stumble upon the coroner Dr Daniel Marquis’ family performing black magic. His daughter Lea, a delicate beauty is a victim of seizures, only cured by the sacrifices of human hearts.
“Landor, I shall write a poem someday. Something that shall send your name down through the ages.”
It seems as if Edgar really did refer to Landor in “Landor’s Cottage”, but Netflix’s historical mystery thriller directed by Scott Cooper is an adaptation of a book by the same title written by Louis Bayard rather than another of Poe’s poems. The story is riveting, portraying complex concepts such as honesty and justice, bullying, failure of rules and institutions that showcase a strong front but are rotten from the inside and the limits a family surpasses, to protect and to avenge their own.
The cinematography of the movie is phenomenal as attention to detail is vivid for the beholder. The dark, grey aura of the time, the snowy nights, and the grim days coupled with the marching soldiers and heavy artillery depict the loneliness that ebbs away at the emotions of the residents. That the New York of the 1830’s quite different from the one today is an enigma; its endlessly silent and gloomy atmosphere permeates through the picture, setting the viewers’ feelings in the very direction of mystery or drawing them towards a bookshelf with musty books.
The writer is an undergraduate student of psychology at FC College