Actor Spotlight: Audrey Rose
The first film in our Anthony Hopkins spotlight is the 1977 film Audrey Rose, which is the story of one man’s search to find the reincarnated form of his daughter. When a couple and their 11 year old daughter begin experiencing some strange happenings, they are confronted with some potentially disturbing news. Once Hopkins enters the picture, he begins proposing some outrageous notions that Marsha Mason’s Janice and John Beck’s Bill are simply not ready for.
Many of the 70s thriller/horror tropes are present. The unfounded, eerie glances, tension inducing music, and a child in supernatural peril. While there is a supernatural theme, there is also a very spiritual one present. The film explores the Hindu belief of reincarnation and, surprisingly, not in an exploitive, “what kind of hoodoo is this”, kind of way. Hopkins’ Elliot Hoover approaches the subject from an academic standpoint, and is met with disbelief from some of the parties involved. And despite the naysayers, the subject is broached with great sensitivity and discernment. Not only is the Hindu faith given a more academic look, but at one point experts are consulted in court as a means to keep Hoover out of jail.
The story unfolds neatly with a few surprising elements. The rising action takes shape during Hoover’s attempts to sway the Templeton’s towards his way of thinking, only to rise to a tragic climax. There is a moral deep within that encourages open minds and hearts, but ultimately the real moral is, “always listen to the learned man with the British accent.”
Robert Wise, winner of the Academy award for Best Director of West Side Story (an honor he shared with Jerome Robbins), directed the film. Closer to the end of his career than the beginning, he shows what a veteran director can bring to the table, in the form of extreme wide shots, tracking, and the conveyance of tone. Not a single moment, scene, or breath is wasted, as simply telling the story takes precedence. Wise took what could have been a fairly mundane story and injected it with emotion and terror, accepting nothing less than the best from his actors.
Hopkins delivers each line with superb mastery and a hint of sadness behind his eyes, which is continually countered by Beck’s gruff demeanor and exterior. Mason is overwhelmingly convincing as the beleaguered mother to Ivy. Even Susan Swift, the rookie, first time actress, gives a heart wrenching performance as the tormented child.
One of many films in the 70s to run with the “supernaturally plagued family” theme, Audrey Rose draws on a number of the same motifs, but manages to put a more spiritual, and less demonic, face on the events. It’s a well made, well acted film, with a taut story, even if it slightly resembles some of its predecessors.