Author(s): Chris M.
"Behind Closed Doors"
Warner Independent Pictures
Produced by Stephen Garrett
Written and Directed by Michael Haneke
Original Score by Carter Burwell
Cinematography by Roger Deakins
Editing by Craig McKay
John Goodman as Harold Thompson
Maggie Gyllenhaal as Emily Barnes
Chris Evans as Keith Barnes
Tagline: "It's a dangerous business going out your front door"
Synopsis: Keith and Emily Barnes (Chris Evans and Maggie Gyllenhaal), have recently moved from Washington DC into a new home in a secluded cul-de-sac in Dunkirk, Maryland. The Barnes’s are greeted by their seemingly venerable neighbor Harold (John Goodman) who lives across the street from them. Harold Thompson appears to be your normal bachelor, somewhat lonely, but harmless all the less. There is no indication that Harold is in fact a psychotic murderer who has created a family of his own out of his former victims, all of whom Harold seems to believe are fully alive. Harold dresses them in clothing, moves them around the house, and talks with them, and to Harold they can talk back. Although Harold’s drive to kill is unflinching, he is able to fake normal emotions and keep up his appearance as a socially-responsible human being. He is well-liked by members of his community, and his neighbors.
Keith and Emily Barnes are still adjusting from the loss of their five year old daughter Cecile, who passed away a year earlier. They moved as an attempt to return to the life of normalcy they once had. Keith is a practicing surgeon at Johns Hopkins hospital. Emily is a housewife; formally a lobbyist for Merck pharmaceutical. Emily has not been able to return to work since the loss of Cecile. Emily wants to try to conceive again, Keith does not, he doesn’t believe Emily is in the shape mentally or physically to have a child. The Barnes’s appear to be a happy couple, but they are on the brink of separation.
Harold develops a bond with the lonesome Emily and begins to have feelings for her. Harold determines that his love for Emily is to strong to ignore, and decides to pursue it. The next obstacle Harold must face is getting Keith out of the picture so he can give Emily the family and life she desires. Fate is on Harold’s side when Keith unexpectedly leaves during the night. Keith leaves no number or address to reach him. Harold see’s this as the opportunity to move in on the vulnerable Emily. What Harold does not know is that Emily has a secret of her own: a year ago, Harold killed Cecile, the Barnes’s daughter and they have been tracking him down since. Keith never left Emily; he has been at a medical seminar in London. Keith’s supposed disappearance was all a part of their elaborate plan for Harold Thompson. Harold has been lured into their trap and they will exact their revenge. What appears to be an ideal neighborhood is far from it. Behind closed doors lie dark secrets.
What the Press would say:
“Behind Closed Doors” is Michael Haneke’s second English-language feature, adaptation from a popular syndicated television show. Haneke has created a film out of that idea that now stands as a Hitchcockian thriller. Over the last two decades, the director has developed a reputation for stark, often brutal films that pace the viewer – sometimes subtly, sometimes explicitly – in the uncomfortable role of accomplice to the crimes playing out on-screen. Haneke’s greatest success is his total manipulation of the audience. How the audience reacted to Emily and Keith’s torture and execution of Harold is quite astonishing. There was actual applause at first – then almost immediately, the audience is conscious what it’s applauding for, the audience went completely silent. There was a generalization, even though in the victim was a villain, the audience had been tricked into celebrating an act of murder. Where another director might have cut tactfully away, Haneke’s camera lingers so the audience takes in the full effect. “Behind Closed Doors” is simultaneously the most conventional and the most opaque of Haneke’s films, and arguably his most effective to date.
In “Behind Closed Doors” Michael Haneke’s characters are adrift in a profoundly dysfunctional world. The most dysfunctional and talked about character of the year belongs to veteran actor John Goodman. Goodman is Harold Thompson, an unassuming murderer. Goodman was able to achieve sympathy for an unsympathetic character, a remarkable feat few actors could make. He relishes in the witty dialog that Haneke has provided him with, displaying a knack at dark comedy. “Behind Closed Doors” provides Goodman the opportunity to display his range as an actor, as the multi-layered Harold. Haneke made a smart choice with Goodman, as he possesses an underlying menace that’s hidden well but can become almost palpable when he turns it on. “Behind Closed Doors” will be the movie that gets John Goodman his first Academy Award nomination, and quite possibly an Academy Award.
Maggie Gyllenhaal has never been better. Gyllenhaal plays Emily Barnes, a grieving mother with a dark agenda. The role of Emily Barnes has provided Gyllenhaal the strongest role of her career. In “Behind Closed Doors” Gyllenhaal takes her character Emily to extremely dark places. She has an incredible presence on screen and will be a shoo in for end of the year awards. Chris Evans is magnificent as Emily’s embattled husband Keith. Evans has been an up and coming actor for years and has finally gotten a role he can sink his teeth into. As Keith Barnes, Chris Evans gives a raw performance as a man who uses his career as an escape from his troubled marriage and tragedy. Evans displays an array of emotions and demonstrates his skill as an actor. Evans should be prepared for a busy awards season. This is the one movie you must see this year, “Behind Closed Doors” is the movie every critic is talking about.
Best Director - Michael Haneke
Best Actor – John Goodman
Best Supporting Actor – Chris Evans
Best Supporting Actress – Maggie Gyllenhaal
Best Adapted Screenplay - Michael Haneke
And creativity categories