Earlier today, I stumbled across a reference to Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman’s MirrorMask that had me wistfully thinking back to when I caught the film for the first time back in 2008. The film itself actually came out three years prior to that in 2005, but I was late attending that particular visual party. For me, despite the delay and seeing it on the small screen, it turned out to be no less fun and I thought I would share a few thoughts here today as some YouTube moments dropped me right back into how I was feeling during that first viewing.
I enjoyed this cinematic version of what I see as a beautiful, moving painting. I know there are differing options of its worth as a film but for me the artistry of this project was more like a canvas set in motion than a standard story. MirrorMask isn’t a passive film, but rather one that astounds and even frustrates the viewer and in that action I feel it succeeds. It almost challenges the viewer to play along at home and tease the elements worth seeing from an often visually overwhelming landscape of things happening on the screen. You can watch a sequence more than once and find new things to enjoy or, for some, dislike. Much like art, it elicits a reaction from the viewer and for that I give it a lot of credit as often there is more to see than you can capture in a standard glance which can make the experience a bit disquieting.
When I first watched it, my reaction was “what an ethereal, fablesque, beautiful little movie”. The sheer willingness to break visual convention displayed in this film was stunning to me even if the story felt a bit thin. As anyone who has seen it can attest, the dreamlike landscape can be captivating yet often also off-putting.
The Burt Bacharach and Hal David song “Close to You” by the clockwork people was a visual highlight for me in the film and Jason Barry as Valentine and Stephanie Leonidas as Helena in the leads were both standout roles deserving of respect. Stephanie reminded me quite a bit of a young Helena Bonham Carter through the film. It looks like she has done mostly television work since her lead in the film back in 2005. Too bad more film work hasn’t drifted her way as I found her muted and often subtle range of emotion very interesting in the film. She had the ability to quietly convey a lot which drew me to her performance.
All in all I would highly recommend seeing it if you missed it on the big screen. Given the visual elements presented here, I’m sorry I didn’t have the chance to sample it as originally presented but it was impressive on cable and a blueray re-watch may be in order one day soon.