Imagination — movie review
Posted on January 20, 2008 by Chris Nelson
Paying major tribute to Jans Svankmajer, the Leiser brothers’ Imagination tells the tale of two twin sisters, one a sufferer of Asberger’s Syndrome, the other legally blind, who share a tendency toward retreating into imaginary realms, their visions and schemes border on the prophetic. While certainly intriguing to an outsider, all this slightly disturbs their mother, who seeks their return to the agreed-upon normal world through psychiatric treatment. As the film starts, we find that treatment has not gone as expected, and the two twins have met a rather mysterious end. Exactly what happened is left as the mystery of the film, though the end is not quite anything you would expect.
Being a genuine independent film, Imagination suffers a few technical issues a larger budgeted film wouldn’t. Actors in the live-action sequences are by and large amateur and volunteer grade, and while their performances are earnest, some of them fall a bit flat. The sound mix on our review copy was a bit unbalanced, with some scenes dialog relegated to whispers against the film’s score. This was made all the worse by the failure of our Sony digital receiver over Christmas, so our second viewing, while serving to clarify some aspects of the story, still left others in the darkness.
But those problems aside, the rest of Imagination is quite intriguing — hands down the most notable aspect being Eric Leiser’s visuals. The scenes of real world interactions have a faded, sepia-toned, slightly-off quality of other people’s family photographs. The imagined world, on the other hand, is filled with inventive stop-animations and CG creations, all documented in crystal clarity, perfectly conveying the twins perception that imagination is more real than reality. And here, animation fans (in particular those of The Brothers Quay and Svankmajer) will delight in everything from chatting foods and eroding rock formations to animated skeletons and fallopian undulations.
Helping the above in no small part is Jeffrey Leiser’s score. It’s simple, dreamy, catchy and hauntingly odd, with plenty of rhythmic plunkings and tinklings to keep your ear interested. I’m not exactly sure how to describe it, but I will say that it is one of my favorite this year.
In closing, while the Leiser brothers’ Imagination suffers a bit in its live action portions, the creativity and visual panache demonstrated in its stop animations prove worthy of a look. At the very least, Imagination has me interested in seeing what the Leiser brothers will do next.
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