Friday, March 03, 2006

Mirrormask (McKean, 2005)

Mirrormask is a film that I truly regret not seeing in the theater. I suspect that I have missed out on what was intended to be an immersive experience by having all of McKean's images forced to compete for space on my average-sized television. I'd like to see it again on an IMAX screen. As it was, I had a very difficult time getting invested in the young heroine's quest. The script recycles many of Gaiman's favorite themes, namely that there is a fantasy world of dreams and metaphors that can have a dramatic impact on the 'real' world. The girl's quest is simple: work out a way to save her mother in the fantasy world and then she will be well in the real world. And yet, the opening twenty minutes of the film, mostly set in a circus, are so disorienting -- with unusual camera angles and music and pacing -- that, for me, the basic human connection was not established. When we arrive in the fantasy world, it is something of a relief because then we know that we can relax our logical side and become a sightseer. The film works best when we have at least some strand of connection to something we might recognize. For example, I enjoyed the witty twist on the myth of the Sphinx. However, at other times, the film struck as being so original and unusual that I felt unengaged and emotionally distant. The character of Valentine, for example, wears a mask that distorts his human features so much that it is like watching a living, breathing abstraction. Perhaps a better performer might help, but the actor given the role in this case gets swallowed up, barely registering as much of anything. Ultimately, I found much to admire in Mirrormask, but couldn't help but feel that I was given so much to process visually that a simple thing like a child's need to know that her mother will be OK was lost in the mix. I felt a bizarre combination of amazement and utter disinterest. Again, I suspect that watching the film at a size that would allow for easier processing might help a bit; but as it stands, I am somewhat disappointed that the film strove for surreal complexities while neglecting the part of the film that should have been most basic.



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