It's a dark night of the soul for Leon Leigh when he returns to his mother's home and has to deal with buried emotions from a traumatic past.
"The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh" is one of those independent horror movies that has such an impact on the art of film itself, that everyone should see it, and it should be used to teach film to students. It's really that good.
There is a heavy weight to this movie, and right off the bat it's easy to see that the cinematography is top notch. The director's artistic style creates a moody, brooding atmosphere with set pieces that are discordant, and discomfiting, and a great visual representation of a main character who isn't comfortable in his own skin.
Rosalind Leigh's house itself is the main character of the movie. Instead of just being a backdrop, everything in the house has meaning. The rooms are full of menace, and the house appears to be watching Leon's every move.
There's life-sized statues, and suits of armor that give the audience the impression that the objects themselves are alive and stalking Leon. At one point in the movie, this turns out to be exactly the case, with terrifying results.
|Look at this statue! It's brooding, looming presence is felt the moment it appears onscreen. Those big saucer eyes see everything that occurs in the house. I wouldn't want that thing greeting me every time I came home. Yikes!|
Rosalind's cross-stitch needlepoint pieces in particular, are used not only as a symbol for Rosalind, but they also helps establish an otherworldly aura to the house.
Every room is chock-a-block full of knick-knacks, antiques and collectibles; most of which are angels or creepy dolls. The hodgepodge of clutter lends a certain creepiness to the place, especially when Leon realizes that all of the antiques are things that he has sold over the years and that his mother was his best customer. She was so obsessed with being with him that she purchased everything that he touched in an effort to be close to him.
In addition to obsession, Rosalind's life was ruled by superstition, and the strange religious practices of an angel cult.
It is soon revealed by Rosalind that she had purposefully placed strange objects in odd locations around her house in an effort to show Leon that the soul lives beyond death; that she is still there, in that house, waiting for him to contact her.
Needless to say, Rosalind was a very disturbed woman.
After joining a strange angel cult, her husband committed suicide.
The mysterious circumstances surrounding his death are never fully explored. Personally, I think that the cult with it's talk of the soul surviving death, and Rosalind's fractured mind, are what drove Mr. Leigh to kill himself.
|"Faith is Fragile"|
Rosalind was forced to raise her son on her own. Unable to handle the pressure and stress of raising a son by herself, she turned her frustrations and anger outward and tortured Leon psychologically by playing the "Candles Game."
She would ask him if he believed in God, and every time he said no, she'd blow out a candle and tell him if it got dark, the Angel would turn it's back on him and God would hate him.
It was his mother's mind games that forced Leon to push her away, and left him emotionally scarred.
After he left and cut off all contact with her, Rosalind became obsessed with her son, and felt guilty over the fact that her deep faith in her angel cult is what drove them apart.
Once the audience has had time to really absorb the spooky ambiance of the house, and learn why there are statues and things that are just not right on display everywhere, the creepiness factor slowly begins to amp up as strange, unsettling things start to happen. At first, it's subtle, but soon, you will find yourself wondering, is this real, or is Leon hallucinating while his mind tries to come to terms with his dead mother's abuse?
Personally, I think that it's both.
What makes "The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh" so great, aside from the fact that it is so beautifully directed, is that it has countless layers to it.
On the surface it's a movie about a man coming to terms with child abuse. But beneath that, it's a movie about a cult that ruined a family, and a woman's faith that turns out to be all too real.
Whether or not it is Rosalind's will that brings about the manifestation of the demon Loneliness, called in the movie the creature or the wild animal that came from the woods, it's clear that it is a physical representation of the regret, and bitter anger that Leon feels towards his mother.
The demon Loneliness brings to mind the creature from the famous painting "The Nightmare" by Henry Fuseli. In the painting, the foul beast sits on the dreamer's chest and suffocates them, much like Rosalind's loneliness and regret suffocated her so much that it drove her to commit suicide.
The supernatural occurrences are very suspenseful and tense, to the point of being cringe worthy at times, because you really don't want to see what is chasing after Leon. But since watching and sight are themes of the movie, you are forced to open your eyes and watch with him, terrified of what you will see when the camera finally reveals it.
Fun Fact: I thought that it was a clever way to incorporate angelic themes, since Angels that are on Earth, the Grigori, are called The Watchers.
If you don't want to read spoilers, stop reading here.
OK, the rest of you still with us?
There is a lot of debate over what happens at the end of the film. Here's my interpretation.
Leon suffered a mental breakdown where he literally thought that he was being haunted by an angel statue, and terrorized by the demon Loneliness while going over the belongings that he inherited from his mother. When he refuses to believe in God, the Angel, the survival of souls after death, and the demon Loneliness, it abruptly stops being real. His disbelief takes away the demon's power. It also denies Rosalind's ghost the closure she so desperately needed.
Leon hated his mother so much, that he disowned her, and the more she wanted him back in her life, the further it pushed him away. This final act of denial, of refusing to acknowledge Rosalind's faith and her ghost, robs Rosalind of the last shred of hope she had left. Leon manages to fight through his own emotional turmoil and comes to terms with an abusive childhood, and leaves the house unscathed.
Rosalind's sad, lonely ghost is now stuck in her house, driven by her own guilt and remorse to repeat the events that occurred after her death for all eternity. Rosalind's testament of her love for her son Leon, (the antiques, and then the house itself) is denied and sold off.
It's a happy ending for Leon, as he finally manages to move on and put his childhood traumas behind him. It's a sad ending for Rosalind because she never receives the closure, and forgiveness from Leon, that she so desperately needed.
The Title "The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh" Explained
The title has two layers. At the surface, it's a movie about the death of Rosalind Leigh and the house that she left to her only son in her will. Beneath the surface, it's about Rosalind's dying wishes, and her testament to her faith, and her love for her son.
Rosalind Leigh's last will was her yearning to be acknowledged and loved by her son. Her testament of her love for her son was the house full of things that Leon sold over the years that she bought.
Rosalind Leigh's last will and testament were destroyed when Leon refused to forgive her of her sins and return her love and turned his back on the house that he grew up in. If the will had been a piece of paper, Leon would've torn it up and set it on fire, and then walked away before the paper had been completely turned to ash. See, the title is a metaphor. And now you know.