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A Truly Grimm Fairy Tale
As director Terry Gilliam states in a disclaimer prior to the film on the newly released DVD, some people will hate Tideland and be utterly offended by it. Others will love it. And many people, will not be able to form any opinion at all. This is absolutely true although I don't feel any artist, especially one as well-established as Terry Gilliam, should have to give disclaimers on their work.
Tideland is not meant to be taken literally or as realism. Those that do, will be disappointed, offended, disgusted, or annoyed at the ways in which the film goes beyond the borders of realism. Not only in the fantasy or "imagination" sequences which are obviously meant to be surreal but also in the sequences which take place in everyday life.
To many viewers the strange characters that inhabit the world of Tideland- the crazed, taxidermist witch; the mentally challenged, sexually isolated 20-something man; the vile and drug-addicted mother - they seem exaggerated, caricatures, undeveloped.
But this is not a film about adults in a mature world dealing with adult problems. This is a story through the eyes of a child, Jeliza-Rose, a child with a huge imagination. How does a child see things? In generalized, simplified, exaggerated ways. The only way they're capable of seeing them.
This in mind, Gilliam's goal was not to teach about the harmfulness of drugs on the lives of children, or the problems of society - his goal was to create a truly Grimm fairy tale - one for the modern age, with wild adventures, twisted villains, and strange unlikely heroes. All to show the power of imagination and the strength it gives the child who yields it to cope with the nightmares that surround them. That is the theme.
Our minds have been so trained by realistic TV dramas; gritty, raw, films and even cartoons that no longer depict wizards and crime fighting cats, but pre-teen girls dealing with everyday drama; we no longer recognize a fairy tale or fable when we see one. Even one with necrophilia, human taxidermy, and heroin addiction.
Gilliam has created a truly unique piece of art. The acting, especially by Jodelle Ferland as our heroine and Brenden Fletcher as Dickens, is spot-on. The cinematography is innovative and stunning. And the writing is what you would expect from a film veteran like Gilliam.
To anyone who was offended by the content of this film (f*ed-up situations involving a child), I can only say I'm surprised. In this age of assembly line horror films with garbage scripts and terrible acting that receive million plus budgets to show, in full detail, new ways of brutally and apathetically dismembering a human body - it's a wonder people are offended by anything! Especially a sweet, poetic film like Tideland.
Yeah, that's right. Sweet and poetic.