In the book, the last line is Faraday looking at himself in a cracked window pane. Here, the last shot is the boy version of Faraday. Why did you choose to do that?
Abrahamson: Obviously, the ending of the film is something that we put an awful lot of thought into and experimenting and debate and nuancing in the editing. The audience's focus puts tremendous pressure on the end of a film like this because it's where you expect the reveal to be. Leaving aside its meaning and who is doing what to whom, the emotional experience of seeing this little boy left alone in the house is really important for me. The child, who always somehow desperately wanted the life he was excluded from, in the big house. He's a clever, sensitive little boy who's ambitious, whose mother adored this place so [she] probably filled him with stories about how amazing the family and the house were. And so his whole life had warped his desire to be accepted by people who won't accept him.
The point the film makes is, OK, if you act on those sorts of unresolved impulses, you may technically get what you want, but what you get will be empty. The boy does get the house, but what he gets is bricks and mortar and emptiness. None of the glamour, none of the warmth, none of the love and excitement that he imagined as a child.
What about the other aspect: Who is doing what?
Abrahamson: I suppose what that image of the boy at the end is saying is that the force in the house is something that came from the child. There's a scene earlier on with the other doctor in the pub. Faraday and he are discussing whether or not, under significant pressure, the subconscious might somehow fracture from the conscious and become a force by itself. At the moment where the boy breaks the acorn, that's the moment at which his rage, desire, impotent longing, and knowledge that he'll never be accepted [fractured]. That's where that happens and that's where you feel the house has absorbed something. And that's what lives in it. And the image of the boy is a kind of representation of that. We're not saying that it was the physical boy [that pushed Caroline]. We're saying that it was something of him.
There are people who debated whether in the book Faraday--
Abrahamson: Did he just go in?
Did he push her? Do you have thoughts on that?
Abrahamson: [Faraday] says he sees something distorted in [Caroline's] eyes. So we imagined it as a kind of monstrous or deformed version of Faraday. That's how it manifested itself to her. Put it like this: How does this thing in the house show itself to all the characters? So to Roddy, who obviously was in a fireball of a plane crash, it shows itself as fire. To Mrs. Ayres, it shows itself as the lost girl, the daughter, Sukey, who is also the misdirect. But to Caroline, it's the monstrous version of him, which is the closest to the truth. And at the end, we just show the boy.
So you didn't want it to seem like Faraday actually committed a murder?
Abrahamson: I have had people who have seen previews go: "I think maybe he just went back in." And that's OK. I'm not in charge of that. I have my view of it and certainly it's a privileged view because I get to make the film. But at the same, I don't want to ram that down anybody's throat. And there is a way in which it is really Faraday. And the Faraday that leaves the house, and the Faraday that is up on the nursery floor, they are never to be united. The book moved me because Faraday's character -- even though he is terribly repressed and sometimes sort of jarring or that lovely word "rebarbative" -- is just like all of us, somebody who started out wanting to be loved and to love. That class system is the warping dimension. This is a film set in Britain in the mid-'40s which is about class, but actually any ideology or social kind of structure, which diminishes one group of people and elevates another, is ultimately profoundly destructive at a personal level to both sides of that.