The dark side of childhood: why watching the movie “Shelter” is really scary
Country: Spain, Mexico
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Drama, Detective
Year of production: 2007
Directed by: Juan Antonio Baiona
Actors: Belen Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Prinsep
tagline: “Un cuento de amor. Una historia de terror”
Critics call the film “Shelter” more the brainchild of Guillermo del Toro than Juan Antonio Bayon. And this is partly true: the handwriting of del Toro, who acted here as a producer, is felt from the very beginning.
The point of the movie “Shelter” (El orfanato) is that family secrets and mysteries often turn out to be not only harmful, but also destructive. This movie also tells about how vulnerable and sensitive “special” children can be.
“Shelter” is a really scary film, but the horror is not inspired by the mystical component, but by real events.
What is the movie about
Brief description of the content of the film “Shelter”. Spain, our time. The main character Laura, together with her husband Carlos and son Simon, returns to the place of her childhood – an old orphanage. Now it is closed, but Laura dreams of reopening it and settling “special” children there.
Roger Prinsep as Simon, Belen Rueda as Laura. Frame from the film.
One morning, Laura and her son went for a walk to the beach and found an abandoned cave there. Simon asked permission to play there and Laura, not seeing any danger, allowed him to do so.
Simon was gone for a long time, and the woman, alarmed, went after him. After a long search, Laura found her son, who was talking animatedly to someone. He told his mother that he met a boy named Thomas in the cave and talked to him.
Soon a woman came to the house, introducing herself as a social worker: she tried to convince Laura that Simon was ill with HIV infection. The woman preferred to keep this information a secret.
On the opening day of the orphanage, Laura quarreled with Simon and met a strange boy, with whom she also had a conflict. Soon she discovered that Simon was missing and rushed to find him. But she never managed to find her son.
After nine months, the inconsolable parents met again with an elderly social worker who came to their home. Laura was intuitively sure that she was somehow connected with the disappearance of Simon, but she failed to understand what was happening – the unfortunate car hit her to death.
A few days later, the police came to Laura’s home, as a witness to the tragedy, and the woman learned that the once elderly social worker worked in the shelter as an educator. She had a son, Thomas. He could not find a common language with other children, and one day they took him to a cave, and left him there. At high tide, the boy drowned.
Laura began her own investigation. Carlos, who did not like all this, offered to leave the gloomy mansion, but the main character, convinced that supernatural forces were involved in the disappearance of her son, refused.
One day, she discovered a hiding place in which she found scary dolls that once belonged to children who once lived in a shelter. The woman realized that the dead children were inviting her to play a terrible game, the main prize of which would be Simon.
Fernando Caio as Carlos, Simon’s father. Frame from the film.
Later, she managed to discover another, even more terrible hiding place – in one of the ovens behind the house, she found the ashes that belonged to the children. Having shown miracles of deduction, Laura realized that, wanting to avenge Thomas, his mother-teacher (she is also a social worker) poisoned all the children, burned the bodies, and buried the ashes behind the house.
The woman was sure that this was enough to bring Simon back, but the ghosts of the children thought otherwise. At the end of the film, they asked her to play tag, and Laura had to agree. During the game, the children led her to a closed room.
The explanation for the ending is as follows: on the opening day of the orphanage, Laura accidentally locked Simon in the pantry. While she was looking for him, he died. Finding her dead son, and realizing that she herself was the cause of his death, Laura was moved by her mind and committed suicide. But her soul remained in the orphanage, along with the children she tried to help. Now her Simon was among them.
The meaning of the ending of the film “Shelter” can be called philosophical. The director of this atmospheric Spanish film wanted to say that death is an eternal sleep. Laura forever remained in the shelter and found peace there.
The meaning of the film
Lorca once said that Spain is “a land of open death.” Many Spanish paintings are just like that – with a dark idea of life and death in the center – beautiful, passionate and scary.
The film “Shelter” has no hidden meaning, but the picture did not become less deep because of this. Here Del Toro and Bayona explore the nature of childhood and adulthood. What is it like to be an adult? This means having a huge load of exhausting problems and social roles, which, according to Likhachev’s definition, with “floors of responsibility” allow you to fence yourself off from a frightening reality.
In childhood, a person has a lot of strength, there are dreams and aspirations. While playing, we forget about reality and dissolve into the characters of fictional universes. But one day something happens. The game is getting less and less fun. There comes a period of growing up.
Living our lives, we strive for self-realization, and in the process it becomes clear to us that no adulthood exists: the point is that an adult is the same child, except that he has more experience.
The essence of the film “Shelter” is that childhood is scary. Looking into the past, the main character of the picture found that her life project, in which she believed so much, is dead. There, she personally faced her fears, from which she tried to fence herself off with the notorious “adulthood”.
Frame from the film.
Gradually, the nightmare intensified and became a reality: Laura understood the reason for her fears, but the fears themselves did not disappear. They were not outlived – that is the meaning of her misadventures. But they were not outlived, because all her life Laura hid from herself. She was able to understand this only after a terrible game with her own dead – when she lost Simon. And at that moment she realized that further life (in fact, existence) does not make sense …
A lonely, gloomy orphanage, a shelter for orphans, reminiscent of Purgatory. Laura and her family broke into this gloomy realm, disturbing the dead.
She desperately wanted to set up a Garden of Eden here, and she could not understand that these lands were dry and barren. The unsightly inhabitants of Purgatory began to flirt with aliens from the world of the living in order to obtain indulgence. But the game dragged on, and the Abyss looked at them, taking the form of a cave grinning with stalactites.
Del Toro remains true to himself: as in his other paintings, in the “Shelter” unhappy children come to the fore. Trying to hide from the cruel reality in the most insecure places, they wrap themselves in their fairy-tale thoughts, thanks to which they manage to block the frightening adulthood.
These are special children, and they – growing up and grown up – are doomed to painful loneliness. Entering the battlefield, they found themselves unarmed, and realized that it was possible to hide from the endless war of worlds, customs and times only in illusion.
Frame from the film.
Here are a few pictures similar to “Shelter” in meaning:
- “Others” (USA, 2001). 1945 Grace, expecting her husband from the war, lives with her children in an old gloomy mansion. Soon three servants appear there, behaving very strangely, and this greatly frightens her;
- “Psychic” (UK, 2011). 1920 A female investigator arrives at a boarding house for boys to investigate a string of deaths. Locals are convinced that the death of children occurred for supernatural reasons;
- “Pan’s Labyrinth” (Spain, Mexico, 2006). Spain, 1944 Young Ophelia, together with her stepfather, a Francoist officer, and her pregnant mother, moves to live in a military camp. One day, on a walk, the girl discovers a strange labyrinth in which gloomy tales come to life.