Ralph Fiennes

THE CORMORANT. 1993

Director: Peter Markham

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



Apparently little-known in the United States, Ralph Fiennes' The Cormorant was a subtle eerie film made for BBC television, & one of his most startling & best-played roles. Because horror films are as a group so genre-defined even when they rise to the level of art, it is hard to recognize this strange, ghostly story as a horror film, as it is just so original.

The Cormorant is based on a literary horror novel by Stephen Gregory, a book that received the Somerset Maugham Award. Set in witchcraft-haunted Wales, Fiennes inherits a remote coastal farm with the proviso that he take care of his reclusive late uncle's pet cormorant Archie, which may have been the familiar of an old warlock, if not merely some sinister creature capable of putting a spell of perverse love upon its caretaker.

The deviant relationship that apparently existed between the uncle & the bird begins to develop between the bird & Fiennes' character. When Fiennes is kissing the cormorant, it's damned creepy, even if you don't already know that a cormorant's razor sharp beak could've easily sliced off his nose.

Never for a moment is this sensual attachment treated in any manner campy or laughable. This is a gloomily serious weird tale, & the Welshman's intensifying desire for the demonic bird becomes increasingly horrific as the story progresses. Sometimes the story is anchored in realism & Fiennes may only be losing his mind & fixating upon the bird through no supernatural agency. But there are sufficient clues here & there that the cormorant really is something cruel & awful & Otherly.

This is my favorite Fiennes performance, even better than the complex & attractively neurotic he played in Oscar & Lucinda (1997). Although it had an art-house theatrical release in the United States in 1995, it still has no DVD as I write this review, & even on VHS the only copies I've seen were taped off the air. What a pity that both the book & the film did not achieve the deserved status as classics of horror.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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