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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Woman in Black

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliff) is a London lawyer around 1910 that is performing poorly since lost his wife four years previously when his son was born.
 
His boss at the law firm gives him one last chance and sends him to a remote town on the northern coast of England to go through the papers of an old woman recently deceased. On Tuesday Arthur promises his son they will soon be together as the nanny is to bring the boy to the town by train on Friday for a little holiday.
 
As soon as he gets off the train people react badly to him and want him gone. He manages to get a room at a pub but it has a terrible story. Three little girls walked out of the window years before and died. She and her husband lost a son when the tide flooded the causeway linking the house to the mainland and his body was never recovered.
 
Arthur meets one man who seems normal, Mr. Daily (Ciaran Hinds). He is the only one in town with a vehicle but he and his wife lost a son as well. But against the advice of everyone, Arthur makes his way across the causeway leading to the old mansion.
 
Arthur misses his wife and reads about séances that were very popular at the time. Arthur years to receive some kind of message from his deceased wife, Stella. A couple of days into his work, Arthur sees a woman dressed in black in the cemetery and goes to explore. Daily talks with Arthur about spiritualism and debunks the practice, but Daily’s wife is a believer. She sees things.
 
And children begin dying all around Arthur. He is greatly distraught and wants to stop his son and the nanny from coming north.
 
“The Woman in Black” is an atmospheric, gothic horror novel based on the 1983 book by Susan Hill.  It is produced by Hammer Film Productions, founded in England in 1935, sold in the 80s and now starting up again. When I was studying in England Hammer films were always being talked about, especially in relation to the underground railways.
 
In “Woman in Black”, the train is highly symbolic and plays a key role.
 
This is a film about grief and love, it is about mental illness and who decides who is ill or not. In some warped way, when Arthur tries to set the universe aright to appease the woman in black, she returns the favor.  And it is not all that upsetting except to the living. The story also has a terrible Pied Piper quality about it because vengeance for an original crime is the real horror.
  “The Woman in Black” is well scripted, acted, and filmed. But is it horror or about the power of love? Can they be the same?


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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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