A hugely talented but socially isolated computer operator is tasked by Management to prove the Zero Theorem: that the universe ends as nothing, rendering life meaningless. But meaning is what he already craves.
Pre-teen Jeliza-Rose's parents are hopeless drug addicts. When pa, rocker Noah, finds ma's OD'd, he fears to be charged with homicide and takes Jeliza along to his ma's place, in a desolate country region. With Noah passed out, the girl mentally transfers to a fantasy world she and her doll heads enter magically. Jeliza's adventures also star the crazy locals, notably Dell, and Dell's grown but intellectually disabled brother Dickens. Written by
A gorgeous and emotional trip down the rabbit hole
After waiting for what seems like half a decade I finally saw Terry Gilliam's Tideland two days ago. I had first read about the project on a website, and immediately I knew this was just the right material for Gilliam. I have been a great fan of his works ever since as a little I saw The adventures of Baron Munchausen. Although it wasn't until six years later I found out who Terry Gilliam was. His imagination has shaped my imagination and with Tideland I feel he has made something that overlaps with some of the things I have made. O.k. you could say this isn't Gilliam's imagination at all it's Mr. Mitch Cullin's, but pooey to you. Of course I bought the book as soon as I knew it was going to be turned into a film by Captain Chaos. Now, can a film live up to anyone's expectations after reading the book and waiting for more than a year? The answer, in this case, is: yes, absolutely.
Tideland has become a dark, whimsical, charming and entrancing film. Easily his best film since The Fisherking. What distinguishes Tideland from other Gilliam films is it's subdued storytelling, for a Gilliam-film that is, there are the usual trademarks: wide angle photography, madness, silly voices, cages, incredibly filthy teeth, and a climax that feels like it's falling of the screen right over you. The first couple of scenes as Jeliza-Rose's life is being turned upside down are chaotic, frenetic and busy in a style we're familiar with from this filmmaker, but as Jeliza-Rose adjusts to her life on the plains, the pace slows down, and the scenes open up. The beautiful cinematography skews almost every angle and bit by bit Jeliza-Rose's fantasies start to dominate the screen. The film opens with a quote from Alice in Wonderland that dominates the entire film: "Alice didn't know anymore whether she was falling very slowly or falling very deep". Likewise Jeliza-Rose falls down the rabbit hole (at one point literally) and we the audience are falling down with her. The whole story resounds with echoes from Jeliza-Rose's favourite book. The dominating and scary Dell recalls the Mad hatter and the Queen of Hearts. Dickens has something of the white knight about him. And there are some elements that seem to come straight out of the movie Psycho, this leads to some grotesque imagery that some people will probably find hard to stomach. There will be some who will call Tideland a controversial film or a disturbing one, but that has more to do with those people than the actual film. Certainly Jeliza-Rose gets trapped in some situations that to an adult seem very dangerous, and there were moments where I wanted to get up from my seat and be able to take this little girl and tell her things would be alright. However Jodelle Ferland and Gilliam have made her a strong and intelligent child and she does manage on her own. It's the absolute honesty with which she is portrayed and the innocence that are shocking. As Gilliam has said this is a film to scare adults not children. I can't remember when I've last seen a film that so honestly and accurately portrays a child's imagination and the way it affects her life, and it's laudable that it doesn't shy away or try to paint a pretty picture, from the more murky parts of her life and development. The film does manage not to be bleak though, that is one it's great strengths. In the hands of any other filmmaker it would have been quite a depressing story, but Gilliam imbues the whole film with a sense of mystery, charm and fun that makes the darkness seem more like falling down a strange rabbit hole very slowly than sinking into bog. This is largely achieved through Jodelle Ferland's stunning performance, her acting is so natural and captivating you are immediately won over by her. Janet Macteer plays the formidable Dell with a touch of tenderness and a streak of wildness that make her character truly scary. I can't leave out Brendan Fletcher as his portrayal of the lobotomized epileptic (I won't call him retard) is so intense and scarily funny that your heart really breaks at the end.
I for one hope that this film will find an audience and that it will be a success, as this film is too beautiful to be missed or ignored.
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