Rebecca (Sarah Bolger), the heroine of THE MOTH DIARIES adapted by director Mary Harron (AMERICAN PSYCHO, THE NOTORIOUS BETTIE PAGE) from the novel by Rachel Klein, begins a diary on her sixteenth birthday. She has just returned to Brandwyn Hall, formerly a hotel, after the suicide of her father, a poet. Why did he kill himself? We’re never told. He’s Canadian and that, apparently, is enough. She encounters the weird, wide-eyed emo Enessa (Lily Cole) whose father also died. Her school days are never the same after that.
The diary, as heard in voiceover, is somewhat restrained, so much so that I wondered if there was a second diary, one that revealed her true feelings.
Oh God, I’ve got to drag my ass into school. Everyone is going to be sooo nice. ‘I’m really sorry your dad died. I thought he was a genius.’ Blah blah blah. Thank God my friends are there. We can sharpen pencils together. Maybe braid each other’s hair. I might even get a decent room.
I do get a decent room. Wahoo. And right next door to my best friend.
I should describe Brandwyn Hall. It used to be an old hotel. God, who would come here? It’s not like they’ve got a spa or something. Nor is it close to a place of cultural interest. (I’m in Canada, duh!) No wonder it got closed down. Anyway, I have three teachers, the head, who has lots of statues of the Virgin Mary in her study, the games teacher, a short lady who teaches swimming and hockey (wahoo) and the literature professor who is a real hottie.
There’s a new girl, Enessa. She has a freakish stare. Speaks with an English accent. Oval, baby face. Creepy.
One of my posse skateboards down the corridor. We tell her to watch herself.
My first English lesson with Mr Hottie. ‘I’m really sorry about your father,’ he says predictably after a lesson on Carmella, the prototypical vampire novel by Sheridan le Fanu. ‘I’m starting up poetry appreciation class. Maybe you’d like the join us.’
‘OK,’ I say.
The insensitive bastard. The last thing I want to do is discuss poetry. I saw my father’s body after he slashed his wrists. If that’s what poetry did to him, or marriage to my mom, then I’m not having any of it.
Party tonight - fruit juices and contraband cakes. All right!
My best pal has got real cosy with Enessa. They are reading books together. I slip down to the basement to practice piano. Enessa is there. She plays beautifully. Why can’t she be bad at something? I can’t wait to get her on the hockey field.
Another party. Enessa whispers in Skate Girl’s ear. She throws a chair through the window. What the boysenberry!
Skate Girl is expelled. She isn’t even given a second chance. After all, there are other windows.
Enessa doesn’t do games. She gets detention. Four laps of the pool. She does not go out and stares forlornly out of the window. What’s her problem? Swimming apparently! She struggles to complete her laps.
Tragedy strikes. There is no meat loaf. Oh and the games teacher is dead. Does anybody suspect Enessa? Apparently not! There are moths at my window. Freaky!
I complain about the smell from Enessa’s room. Sweet, yet gross. With a friend I decide to take a peek through her window. I shimmy across the drain pipe. Chute, I almost slip. I peer through the window. Nothing! A brush and a layer of dust! Not even any pictures. I return to my friend’s window. We see Enessa appear and walk through a closed window. How is that possible? Of course, blue screen and super-imposition. Seriously, in real life, how is that possible? Is she a ghost? Is that why she reads German?
My friend dies. Fell from the window. I see the body on the ground. Bloody. There is only one explanation. Enessa. How did she lure her outside? Events are studiously unviolent.
I had a weird dream about my dad and Enessa was in it. Did she lure him to his death also? If so, how and why?
My best friend starts refusing pudding. It’s jelly with fruit and a squirt of cream. What the be-juices? Apparently, she isn’t eating at all. Enessa does not eat either. Is she a vampire or does she feed on someone’s life force? Is that a real diet?
I am reading in the library. Enessa appears before me. There is blood everywhere. Then nothing. Except for a razor blade. I think she’s trying to tell me to shave my legs. No, of course not, to kill myself. Duh! I visit the basement. I see a coffin shaped box. There is only a book inside it, with diary – like mine – only it commences in 1907. It describes how Enessa was brought to the hotel.
She hasn’t aged in a hundred years. That’s some freaking moisturiser.
My best buddy is admitted to hospital. I leave her some flowers. After Enessa visits they look drained of colour. I am subsequently not allowed to visit.
My friend is refused all visitors and recovers. It must be Enessa. I complain to the head. When she doesn’t listen, I break one of her statues. Well, why else were they there?
No one listens to me about Enessa, her subtle hints with the razor blade. Not Mr Hottie, even after he kissed me (the creep) and certainly not the head. So I go down to the basement and for a second time I see Enessa’s coffin. She is lying inside it. I pour petrol and burn the bitch. She roasts. However, she consoles her that I have set her free.
After the fire, I am covered in soot and look decidedly guilty. The police interview me. I get off. I recall in flashback the happy faces of my friends all gone and see Enessa once more in the window. She walks away.
I wonder what the next year will bring. Maybe better desserts!
A film is made of my diary. It does not explain stuff like why Enessa says that she and I look alike though we patently don’t, why she returned to the hotel, who paid her fees and how she can turn into a pillar of moths (I forgot to explain this earlier). Is there a relationship between my father’s death and Enessa appearing in my life? Who knows? She fixated on me to set her free but why was she trapped in the first place.
Something was evidently lost in translation. I decide to save my money for Laurent Cantet’s FOXFIRE- CONFESSIONS OF A GANG OF GIRLS. Altogether now, ‘do you sign up to Foxfire’s vision of the world?’