From Hell

from_hell_filmYear: 2001

Synopsis: Applying a conspiratorial interpretation of an actual unsolved mystery, the infamous murders of Jack the Ripper are portrayed and investigated.

Pros:
• Johnny Depp (Inspector Abberline) and Ian Holm (Sir Gull) power the conspiracy plot, helping to make up for the film’s weaknesses and absurdities.
• The added Jekyll and Hyde elements worked thanks Ian Holm’s amazing performance.
• Beautifully filmed and surrealist in implementation.
• Made the viewer feel lost and uncomfortable in the hellish slums of 1880s London.
• The line between hero and villain was somewhat blurred by the end.

Cons:
• One must wonder why the Freemasons end up in the middle of so many absurd conspiracy theories!
• The film was overlong and meandering at times. There was very little sense of anything truly new or profound through it all.
• The fabricated visions of the Inspector did not add much to the plot.
• It was very likely that the certainly false conspiracy applied to the plot glazed over the point of the real murders, which might very well have been all about revealing the dark underbelly of London.
• The fabricated tragedy and sappiness at the end fully glazed over the real tragedy of not only several actual murders going unsolved, but also the darkening corners of London as part of a wealthy global empire.

Discussion:
Jack the Ripper is one of the most famous cold case in history.  The Ripper, Leather Apron, or whoever the purp was, acted as if they knew the weaknesses in the investigative system, and applied that knowledge to their murderous plans. It represented an early example of the time when the media learned they could sell more papers by aggressively highlighting the most gruesome of stories. This killer might now be seen as the quintessential primal villain, being the subject of popular culture today. Those murders, particularly in From Hell, have been pinned to aging surgeons and the British Monarchy itself. One of the most wild postulations came in the classic Star Trek episode “Wolf in the Fold,” where the murderer was actually an ancient, body jumping, alien entity that had an irrational hatred of humanoid females.

The reality seemed far darker than the wild conspiracies: someone(s) got away with murder in the decaying underbelly of 1880s Whitechapel, London. There was a strong irony to the film, in that it can lead to one becoming more interested in the real history rather than any absurd conspiracy. Indeed, Abberline led the investigative team, but not quite at the start of the investigation, having transferred elsewhere not long before. He supposedly postulated that their killer might have been a woman, which might seem far less far-fetched today than at the time. In the end, the best Jack the Ripper film has yet to exist, a film more closely adhering to the known details. There is genuine tragedy, dark mystery, failure likely beyond anyone’s control, and perhaps most significantly, realizations that slowly led to a better London East End.


Rotten Tomatoes — 57%

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