Based on the novel by Rachel Klein, The Moth Diaries goes into limited release this April. Exactly one month earlier, on March 20, its studio Screen Gems makes the film available on VOD. Evidence said studio doesn’t quite know how to market this film. The trailer below gives some hint of why this might be.
Like 2010’s Let Me In, Klein’s novel rests upon mood, character and ambiguity. Even the title seems a little odd, and I’ve had a friend who read (and loved) the novel ask me what the title meant. But it heralds one of the central images of the whole story–the changes that happen as girls turn into women. Maturity, especially in our technological age and its prolonged adolescence, no longer seems quite so desirable. Indeed, popular media re-enforces the dream of remaining a teenager forever. What The Moth Diaries does (among other things) is explore how much of a nightmare that would actually be–trapped between two states and hence incomplete, wracked with desires one can neither understand nor control, isolated from a world that remains out of reach, a life so full of secrets it might as well be lived in shadows. Sound familiar? As if describing the existence of an undead creature who preys upon others for their blood perhaps?
But in the novel at least one can never be quite sure if this strange new girl Enessa really is a vampire (although the strange goings on at the private girls’ school fairly beg for some kind of explanation). The narrator, after all, is going through a perfectly understandable breakdown. Does that make her wrong, though? Or just daring enough to consider what others dismiss?
The trailer (seen below) begins with a single piano note repeated over and over. We see the school where the story takes place and a voiceover explains how our narrator “was sent” there two years past after her father’s death (not mentioned in the trailer is that he killed himself). A teacher welcomes the students, while a photostrip (shades of Let Me In again) taped to a mirror coupled with a full-on body hug between Lucie (Sarah Gadon) and our narrator Rebecca (Sarah Bolger) starts to show the emotional heart of the action. The two girls are clearly BFFs. “I missed you so much” Rebecca breathes as the hug ends.
Enter Enessa (Lily Cole) the new girl, who’ll be living across the hall. Tall. Pale. Dark of hair and red of lip. “I wonder what her secret is?” wonders Rebecca aloud. “Well, everyone’s got one,” replies Lucie. By now we see the triangle–and that Enessa’s presence will be changing everything.
Next Scott Speedman (of Underworld fame) as the English teacher Mr. Davies begins a series of snippets from his lectures about gothic horror. He refers to worries about female power and sexuality. Tellingly, as he mentions the latter we see an entire class of young women in class quietly sit up and pay attention. All but Rebecca. She alone seems unmoved by the handsome male professor’s words. Yet we also see the archetypes he discusses take shape in Rebecca’s life, not least as we see Enessa whispering in Lucie’s ear to her delight but under Rebecca’s baleful stare.
“The vampire is a very lonely figure. She wants someone to be all hers. Forever.” All these to close-ups of Enessa, although in the narrative of the trailer this might better apply to Rebecca. “She’s a nice person,” Lucie tells her old friend of her new one, “if you give her a chance.” Moments later we see Enessa talking alone to Rebecca in what looks like a library, talking about death and revealing vivid scars on her wrist–which quietly freaks her out. But when she says something out it, she’s told she’s imagining things–even as someone seems to be hovering over Lucie’s sleeping form (who, who cannot say).
As Enessa sings a slightly eerie tune, we view a old trunk in the shadows of some room, what looks like a funeral, a young woman’s silhouette enter what looks like a darkened basement–then a series of tense moments between Rebecca and Lucy, building to when the latter pushes the former away. All the while the beautiful blonde Lucie looks increasingly sick, pale, dehydrated (with cracked lips and sunken eyes). Mr. Davies continues, noting three things found in every vampire story: Sex (shot of Lucie taking a bath, with strong hints she’s not quite alone), Blood (one drop of blood falls a girl’s finger) and Death (Rebecca and someone else approaching what looks like a corpse).
All this fits pretty neatly with the novel, perhaps streamlining and shifting details for effect. But it isn’t the kind of film likely to become a blockbuster. The ‘R’ rating for example that discourages the early teens. Rather than chases or full on fight scenes, the story lends itself to the slow burn–a mystery revealed one clue at a time, the action taking place in the hearts and minds of the characters rather than dangling from cliffs or with two characters pointing weapons at one another. In short, the story itself is nothing like a video game. If anything it has more in common with computer games like Myst and its sequels. Assuming the film to be any good (and not having seen it yet I cannot offer an honest opinion on that) that means the movie industry simply isn’t focused on steering this kind of film to its target audience.
What do you think? Does the trailer intrigue you?