4.0/10
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18 user 38 critic

Imagination (2007)

Not Rated | | Animation, Fantasy | 26 February 2008 (USA)
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2:55 | Trailer
Dr. Reineger is a child neuro-psychologist who has become confident that the twin Anna has a form of autism called Asperger's Syndrome, rendering her unable to cope with reality. As for her... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
... Dr. Reineger
... Anna Woodruff
... Sarah Woodruff
Courtney Sanford ... Janice Woodruff
Travis Poelle ... Roland Woodruff
Anthony Caraday ... Young Doctor Reineger
Bob Gerlach ... Pastor Bob
Laura Leiser ... Receptionist
Kevin Le ... Kevin
John Le ... John
Jason Byrne ... Search party
Laina Kim ... Funeral attendee / search party
Sebastian Brown ... Search party
Burton Bush ... Funeral attendee
Melissa Haddad ... Funeral attendee
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Storyline

Dr. Reineger is a child neuro-psychologist who has become confident that the twin Anna has a form of autism called Asperger's Syndrome, rendering her unable to cope with reality. As for her blind sister, Sarah, the Doctor cannot say for sure why her visions map so closely to Anna's. At home, their father leaves the family. To escape the pain, the girls sink deeper and deeper into their imaginations. When a major earthquake takes their mother's life, Reineger is left with helping the now-orphaned twins cope, while at the same time dealing with his own struggle concerning the girls' prophetic visions. The girls escape the institution. The subsequent search party can't track them. Have they indeed transcended the physical realm? Written by Eric Leiser

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

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Visions Are Real. See more »

Genres:

Animation | Fantasy

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Not Rated

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26 February 2008 (USA)  »

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$110,000 (estimated)
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1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Quotes

Sarah Woodruff: But the fawn makes everything so clear!
Anna Woodruff: Of course it does, but mom and dad can't see. They forgot what it means to dream. They use our disabilities as an excuse not to believe.
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Connections

References Eclectic Shorts by Eric Leiser (2004) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Daniel Griffin's Review
1 October 2008 | by See all my reviews

Now add Eric (who directed) and Jeffrey (who co-wrote) Leiser to the above list for their absorbing, fascinating Imagination, which contains stunning animated sequences that are often overwhelmingly lurid and oneiric. That's a good thing—for the film's several missteps in, yes, its narrative, its visuals successfully feed that need in me for surreal, abstract dreamscape. It's a rare accomplishment that so fearlessly abandons conventional cinema for astral overload that it often plays more like a music video or one of those Terry Gilliam animated vignettes than a film. But a film it is, ultimately—one that achieves aesthetic beauty and wonderment, even if it ultimately fails to connect emotionally.

What Imagination gets right is its namesake—the animated sequences in which the twins escape into their fantasies and attempt to make sense of the complicated world going on around them. Think Pan's Labyrinth or Victor Erice's Spirit of the Beehive, only far more abstract. These animated sequences are achieved with primitive-looking puppetry and stop motion animation, with abstract water color paintings serving as backgrounds, but these sequences' simplistic nature is part of its considerable style and charm: They represent the half-realized, continuously developing world of two children who are desperately trying to make sense of their lives. Each dream therefore seems to reveal just a few more rooms of their made-up world. By the end of the film, the sisters have developed a fantasy location in which every inch of the screen provides important details; the effect brings to mind the "living" castle in Jean Concteau's Beauty and the Beast, in which every wall, window frame, and candlestick seems to share a secret that the protagonists do not know about.

In these dreams, the twins fuse into a single body (though we hear both their voices speaking at the same time), and the film utilizes biblical and literary imagery that the children use as signposts to interpret the emotional absences of their parents and their increasingly overbearing disabilities. The single animated representation of the twins looks like a hastily-formed, unfinished angel, and this is precisely the embodiment of their reality, at least according to their parents' frequent disappointment with their handicaps. The world they inhabit is sharper, more graceful, and it contains some of the most visionary animation that I've seen—particularly in the details, which includes trees with eyes on its bark and a recurring fawn that turns from an creature of light to a messenger of death in a gradual transition that becomes remarkably terrifying. I'm not going to give away any more of this fully-realized animated world, except to say that they clearly spring from superior creative spirit and that they consistently top themselves in terms of mesmerizing feasts for the eyes. If some of the live action scenes are questionable, Imagination absolutely sparks to life and achieves moments of pure visionary greatness as soon as the children retreat into their dreams.

I am in awe of every animated frame that the Leiser brothers create. Eric's live action work, filmed on 16mm, is a bit more inconsistent. Some sequences are derivative and go on for too long, such as the extended earthquake sequence that begins strong with shots of crumbling rocks but eventually becomes overkill when the camera repeatedly shakes over images of cities, cars, roads, etc. There's another scene like this when the psychologist tosses and turns repeatedly; that he cannot sleep is a point made quickly—why do they linger for so long on his restlessness? On the other hand, some scenes demonstrate great power, such as the director's choice to provide close-ups of the twins' eyes and mouths as they overhear a heated argument between their parents. The effect is so intimate that it grows efficiently unnerving. Eric is also very good at framing—note the way that the doctor's hands overpower the rest of his body as he sits comfortably at his desk, explaining new strategies for approaching the twins' disabilities. He is a man driven completely by his toils.

Imagination has been a three years project for the Lesier brothers, and it was time well spent. There is something utterly hopeful in the thought that a blind girl's fantasy can take her to the Tree of Life, so that she can stand before it and observe both its splendor and its shortcomings, weigh the odds, and eventually decide to taste the fruit. Imperfections result, but the experiences gained are too important to miss—which is exactly how I feel about this movie. The Tree of Life, in the end, exists primarily in the sacred hallows of our minds, which is where the Lesiers keep it and nurture it—unblemished, beautiful, threatening, and quietly informing our dreams. Keep an eye on these fellows; they possess the boldness and, certainly, the imagination of the masters.


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