SEYFRIED LENDS GROUNDING PRESENCE TO CAMPY THRILLER
AppleMagazine|AppleMagazine #498
Hollywood thrillers in which sophisticated, attractive city folk move to creaky old country homes and experience scary things are a dime a dozen. Less common is when those Hollywood thrillers are based on the theology of 18thcentury Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg.

But here we are — a Swedenborgian thriller — and thus it’s not a bad idea to read up a bit on the man, by which we mean to Google him, before diving into “Things Heard & Seen,” a wellcast and often entertaining but campy and sometimes obvious thriller starring Amanda Seyfried and James Norton.

What you’ll learn is that Swedenborg believed (among other things) that death was just a continuation of life — and that people lived on, in the spiritual world, past the expiration of their physical body. For the film’s purposes, we’ll boil it down for you: Ghosts!

In fact the film, based on the novel “All Things Cease to Appear” by Elizabeth Brundage, begins with a Swedenborg quote: “Things that are in heaven are more real than things that are in the world.” So even if you’ve skipped your theology homework (tsk tsk), this should alert you to a spectral influence in the story — maybe even a seance or two.

We begin in the winter of 1980, when a perturbed looking George Claire (Norton) drives up a snowy road to his isolated home. Immediately, it’s obvious something terrible has happened.

Flashback to the spring before, in a Manhattan apartment. George and wife Catherine (Seyfried) are celebrating the fourth birthday of their daughter, Franny. George — handsome and chiseled, with the kind of tousled hair that looks breezy but you know he works on it — has an announcement to make: Not only has he completed his Ph.D in art history, but he’s found a teaching job upstate. “Oh, at Bard?” asks a (snobby) friend. No, he replies, at a a place called Saginaw.

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