Noel Coward’s classic comedy Blithe Spirit (1941) was first adapted for screen in 1945, starring Rex Harrison and Constance Cummings. Television director Edward Hall has made the leap onto the big screen with this new adaptation.
Novelist and socialite Charles invites the larger-than-life medium, Madame Arcati, to conduct a seance in his house. Arcati manages to summon up the ghost of Charles’s first wife, Elvira, who proceeds to wreak havoc between him and his second wife, Ruth.
The writing team of Piers Ashworth, Nick Moorcroft and Meg Leonard, who have previously worked on such projects as Fisherman’s Friends, have done their best to expand the original play beyond the four walls of Charles and Ruth’s house. They’ve retained the original, dark humour, but the script does feel stretched beyond capacity in some places. There are many scenes that are charming, but not much more.
Judi Dench does a star-turn as Madame Arcati, and is ably supported by Dan Stevens as Charles, Isla Fisher as Ruth, and the wonderful Leslie Mann clearly having a blast as Elvira.
But the real star of this film is the art direction. Under the guidance of Production Designer John Paul Kelly, swoon-worthy interiors and exteriors have been brought to life. Main location was Joldwynds, an Art Deco masterpiece private house in Surrey.
Overall, Hall’s version is not as sharp or funny as the 1945 film, nor the original play. But it is still a frothy, enjoyable romp, and a visual feast.
Blithe Spirit is currently screening as part of the British Film Festival at Palace Nova Eastend and Prospect.
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