Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Mirror Mask

I know I have mentioned Neil Gaiman before. He is the author of ‘Sandman’, a graphic novel I used to read and he even has his own blog which he updates almost every day. I was introduced to the Sandman comics back in college by a cousin of mine. I was immediately drawn into the wild fantasy and mesmerized by the original and provocative artwork. Gaiman worked with a variety of artists and each comic has a unique vibe.

The featured character in the Sandman comic is Dream, alias Sandman, alias Morpheus. He is known by many names and by many people. He is the king of the realm of Dream. His 6 brothers and sisters are Destiny, Death, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium. They are also known as The Endless.

The beauty of his comics to me is the depth in character development. Gaiman has created full on personalities, past, present, and futures for the words that are the names of his characters. He has created entire lives. Each sibling recognizes their role in this universe and whilst some struggle others accept.

The art work in the novels is more than just noteworthy. Apart from simple illustrations to move the story forward, there are some of the most awesome collages and images I have ever seen. Using dusty old photographs, feathers, hairs, and other mediums, the artists have brought to life the realms where The Endless exists. This website is an awesome tribute to the series. There are detailed descriptions of each of the characters and loads of pictures and information to check out as well.

I have not been able to get hold of a single piece of Gaiman’s work here in Jakarta. I lost my old comics when I moved back here. Last week however I did manage to get hold of a good copy of his latest film collaboration, Mirror Mask. This was not a main stream film release but the DVD was just put out last month. I had read about it on his blog and was very surprised when I found a copy at the shop. The movie is written by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, directed by Dave McKean, and produced by the Jim Henson Company. Yes, the Muppet people.

The story unfolds as a young girl of 15, growing up with her parents in a circus, dreams of running away to reality. Not more than 10 minutes into the movie she is faced with her mothers mortality and one night slips into a dream where things are not quite what they seem. This tale might seem pretty reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland or the Wizard of Oz, and in some ways it is. I do not see that as a lack of originality but rather necessity for a story that needs to pass through that gateway between fantasy and reality and that will eventually bridge the two.

Helena is obsessed with drawing and her room is plastered with her black and white sketches. Her drawings are not what you would be used to seeing but rather much like the artwork of Ralph Steadman. He was the dude who made the drawings in ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’. These images though seemed to create a whole new world. Her dream draws her into that world where she must make some choices that could affect her life and he mothers.

It may sound a bit too cheesy but it is hard to say more ruining the actually story line. The story itself operates on so many different levels. On one side it unravels the tale of a child facing pressure to face reality and on another it pokes at the soft underbelly of the publishing world where parasites feed on your imagination. That is all I got from it last night but there just seemed to be so much more to it.

As for the imagery, I do not think I have seen anything so spectacular. It is amazing how McKean has managed to create this world through drawings and CGI. It is forever moving and changing and the most appropriate adjective I can use to describe it is surreal. There are parts that made me feel I was looking at a Salvador Dali painting coming to life. The colors were all appropriate and transcended the desired emotions which gave the film a subliminal effect.

The characters and makeup created in this dream world are equally remarkable. The Jim Henson Company has proven that they are not only able to create entertaining characters for children but also masks and costumes that can send shivers up a grown mans spine. I seriously did get a bit freaked out at some points. I have never seen images like these before and it is hard to imagine what inspired them. Originality is something that is not easy to attain but I believe that in this department, they pulled it off.

Last night while watching this film I sparked up a few bowls and I really allowed myself to be drawn into the fantasy. Although this movie will not see the bow office bucks, it is destined to become as cult classic. I know I will be turning it on when I come home late at night, all strung out. I have been watching ‘Pink Floyd, The Wall’ for way to long and it is about time have something to alternate with. If any of you have seen this film, let me know what you think of it.


kubolo bway said...

ill let u know what i think when i watch it, sounds facsinating, will go look for it at my club.

treespotter said...

do you know Dave McKeane?

Avi said...

tree- not personally... all 9i know of him is his work with the sandman comics and now this.

kubulo- so worth it bro. Archie actually gave me the comics when he came to HI. Remember? Also did youcheck out tortured soul? check the track 'how's your life'.. lemme know if you like it.