From Hell (2001, USA)

I think of highly Johnny Depp, but for a long time didn’t want to see his “From Hell” movie about Jack the Ripper. My reasons were simple: I thought it would be a horror movie. Last night I caved in and watched it. I was pleasantly surprise. Yes, it was gruesome every once in a while, but it was more of a mystery and a movie about various vices: opium, absinthe, and love.

Before getting into my thoughts on the story I have to mention, that the cinematography and the setting was superb. They built up a proper little corner of London 130 years ago for our viewing pleasure. I enjoyed visiting the 1880’s just like I did in the recent Sherlock Holmes movie. It could serve as an inspiration for steampunk ideas if I had more time and skills to make things. I also cannot leave unpraised the other two main actors’ work Ian Holms and Heather Graham were both good fits for their roles, that the executed flawlessly.

Having said the above, the story and its implications were disturbing. Clairvoyance is treated with care and shown as both as specific and as vague. I should have decided before watching the movie whether I want a realistic experience of a detective story or I am OK to let go and be entertained by a  fully fictional storytelling. I realize now that unconsciously I opted for the former and was shocked that I got the second.

The other thing that disturbed me how the freemasons were implicated in the murder. Nowadays I think about religion and the issues are very much in the forefront of my mind that how they serve both as driving force of peace and tolerance and at the same time as violence and tension. Watching this movie made me realize that this distinction probably applies to any large enough movement, including the masons, of which I know very little. But they have been around for hundreds of years and while they had many accomplishments, their past probably has some checkered segments. Just as with religion, these dark spots are often explained by certain individual’s misinterpretation of the core tenets.

My last thoughts on the movie revolve around the relation between the symbiotic connection of drug induced clairvoyance and emotional instability. I tolerate badly drug scenes in movies as I have such an aversion to it in real life. So my reactions to Depp in the opium den was coming from the gut. But the movie starts (SPOILER) and ends with such scenes and thus they frame the whole picture. The character comes from darkness and returns to it, so it seems it doesn’t matter what he did in between. Which was, amongst other things, successfully trying to stay devoid of emotions. I did not like that, but still liked the visuals and the era.

The DVD @

IMDB’s summary: In Victorian Era London, a troubled clairvoyant police detective investigates the murders by Jack The Ripper.


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