Review of Edgar Allan Poe’s Annabel Lee

As part of the Poe / After Poe series at the University of Maine at Farmington, we recently screened the new Poe adaptation, Edgar Allan Poe’s Annabel Lee. Placing Poe’s poem in a contemporary setting, Annabel Lee exemplifies the “After Poe” spirit that our series celebrates.

Edgar Allan Poe’s Annabel Lee tells the story of an artist who rents a seaside cabin for the summer, looking for inspiration. A beautiful and mysterious young woman appears, unexplained deaths from the past are uncovered, strange things start to happen, and the artist finds himself not only inspired but also drawn into solving a decade’s old mystery.

Like many films based on Edgar Allan Poe’s works, Edgar Allan Poe’s Annabel Lee departs from the letter of the text. However, unlike most Poe films, Annabel Lee remains true to Poe’s spirit—to the themes of obsessive love, the tragic beauty of the untimely death of a young woman—and Annabel Lee captures Poe’s sensibility, particularly Poe’s ability to mix together in one story beauty and horror, suspense and humor, an exploration of the extremes of human behavior with subtle insights into human nature. For the student of Poe’s work, the film is a delight for its multiple references and clever allusions to many of Poe’s stories and poems, from “Annabel Lee” and “The Raven” to “The Gold Bug” (and other stories of codes and cyphers), “The Masque of Red Death,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” and Poe’s detective fiction.

All of this is filtered through writer and director Michael Rissi’s sensibility, which is as much post-Hitchcock as it is “after Poe.” A cinematic style influenced by Hitchcock provides a perfect means of adapting Poe’s literary style, themes, and motifs to film. Such a combination, and just the right mix of suspense and humor, provides a template for future Poe adapters, and hopefully Edgar Allan Poe’s Annabel Lee, by showing the way, will spark a renaissance of Poe films that finally and at last get Poe right.

Reviewed by Michael K. Johnson, coordinator of the Poe / After Poe Series at the University of Maine at Farmington. Poe / After Poe is a series of events celebrating the bicentennial of Edgar Allan Poe’s birth.

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For more information on the film, see the Edgar Allan Poe’s Annabel Lee website.

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~ by Michael K. Johnson on October 17, 2009.

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