Saint Ange (2004) aka House of Voices Movie Review
Written By: TJ
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director: Pascal Laugier
Producers: Christophe Gans
Writers: Pascal Laugier
Date Released: June 23, 2004
Virginie Ledoyen as Anna Jurin
Lou Doillon as Judith
Virginie Darmon as Mathilde
Catriona MacColl as Francard
Dorina Lazar as Helenka
Jerome Soufflet as Daniel
Ratings: 3.5/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
Expecting a baby soon, Anna Jurin (Ledoyen) accepts a post as a cleaner at St. Ange, an old and abandoned orphanage because of the mysterious death of one of the orphans. Her only company is Helenka (Lazar), the longtime cook, and Judith (Doillon), an adult orphan with mental disabilities. Soon after, bizarre supernatural sights and uncanny voices begin to bother Anna, but Helenka dismisses them by saying that it’s just hallucinations caused by her pregnancy. Anna befriends Judith and tries to get the story behind the phenomena she’s experiencing. Together, they set out to unravel the truth of the past. Realizing that they’ve gone too far, Judith pleads Anna to stop searching but the latter wants to know more so she proceeds underground, and there she finds something that will change her life forever. Judith and everyone else desert the orphanage, leaving Anna and her baby, together with all the other children who still roam the walls of Saint Ange.
Saint Ange (2004) also known as House of Voices, starts by portraying the death of the orphan boy, which happens when he slips and hit his head causing immediate death, thus setting the tone of the film. Although it offers some scenes showing blood and decaying stuff, it focuses more on psychological attack rather than the visual presentation of gory details. There isn’t a lot of scares because it’s more like a suspenseful mystery. In fact, it’s all very low-key, as befits a film where the atmosphere delivers most of the creepiness. This is also not a fast-paced horror, but if you’re willing to accept a mood piece that is open for different interpretations, then you could do a lot worse than House of Voices.
The Grave Review
Saint Ange (2004) is an excellent mystery thriller, however somewhere along the line, the film seems to lose its way. Pascal Laugier provides the requisite creep tactics to get his film moving, certainly including a creepy atmosphere that he creates with lighting, sound, and the whispered voices of the children. It’s a shame to admit though, the plot takes a drastic turn on the last parts of the movie, wherein reality seems to be farfetched and the story spirals out of control.
For now, let us focus more on the good aspects because they are greater than the forgivable fails of the film. House of Voices explores the supernatural, sanity, religion, and even human limitations. It plays out a disturbing situation and the young woman’s curiosity that eventually lead to her death. The film will tug at your emotions as it shows the innocence of children, the feeling of being neglected because you’re different, and the underlying effect of stress during desperate times. It’s appropriately bleak, but all the while worth the watch.
Cinematically speaking, House of Voices is definitely stunning. Laugier has an impressive style of creating a creepy atmosphere, with just the right blend of blue tint and graininess to portray the story’s cold and old touch. Good cinematography really adds to the beauty of the film as a whole, and a great help in conveying the message that the director wants to showcase. A far cry from documentary approach, this film incorporates odd camera angles and well-placed lighting to achieve the director’s vision. The director will give you a lavish-looking French setting, however the people speak in English, which doesn’t make much of a sense.
The performances of our actors are notable, especially Lou Doillon (Judith) who portrays a mentally unstable adult orphan in the story. At the beginning of the film, she appears to be the creepiest character, coming across from unhinged to fragile and frightened. She delivers the role so well that viewers might think that the actress may have more in common with the tragic character than anyone knows. As per Virginie Ledoyen (Anna), she comes off as sympathetic and real, allowing the audience to see real fear in her eyes that they can root for in all the unfortunate circumstances that happened to her character.
The only major shortcoming of this film comes from the writing. Penned by the director himself, House of Voices successfully built tension and intrigue on the first to middle part of the film, then drastically falls flat on the end, hence not matching the build. As mentioned earlier, the ending goes too farfetched that it’s not grounded with reality anymore, defeating the idea the film has given to the audience that it is supposed to be psychological and of course, logical. Laugier missed the chance of having written a classic, but nonetheless, the film is not a total disappointment.
For the foregoing reasons, Grave Reviews gives Saint Ange (2004) three and a half graves out of five graves.
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