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.

Watching the film I was a bit glad Gaiman and McKean decided to make a fairy tale and not a horror film as originally considered. This film, had it targeted a more sinister, creepy air would have been intimidating and possibly a bit much. Overall, for this viewer at least, it occasionally bordered on the disturbing… but in a really comfortable way. It always felt like a dream you could comfortably wake from rather than a traditional horror piece. Here the nature of a dream is captured better than anything I’ve seen before and the parallels to a Wizard of Oz story for the modern-day also struck me as individuals from the real world are pulled into the narrative of the dream world again and again. L. Frank Baum and Lewis Carroll were clearly influential here, but the story walks its own path and lives or fails on its own merit.

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.

5 Responsesto “MirrorMask”

  1. Travis says:

    Did I ever return Aloysius’ copy?

  2. Charlie says:

    Aloysius said he believes he has it back.

  3. Travis says:

    Whew! Now we just need to get him to watch the Invader Zim DVD I loaned him!

  4. Emma Peelout says:

    I thought it was pretty fantastic, though by the time I’d actually found someone with it to borrow from, I had grown tired from the search and had all but given up, so I didn’t have that excitement. I remember having it at Geek Club and wanting to discuss it. Enui took hold even with caffeine.

    Geeze….I still have MY borrowed copy from Splintercat…

  5. allen says:

    Still have not seen this film, although have visually absorbed just about everything Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean have created in comics and otherwise in graphic combination. I recall the overall negative reviews, yet usually do not let that deter me from forming my own viewpoint, just did not make time. The descriptions that you relate of drawing on a dream, put me in mind of The Fountain by Darren Aronofsky that was also panned, escaping most critics expansive vision. I particularly enjoyed your simile of approaching art, in that what one experiences they may not initially understand-or see as coherent- and that is often the expression placed out by the creator as a considered offer, be it in conventional format, or undreamed of combinations.

    Looking forward to seeing this film at some future point,