Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Ink - the kind of movie Hollywood should be makingInk - the kind of dream movie Hollywood should be making (instead of that other one with Leonardo Di Caprio...)

When it comes to films about dreams, and speaking as an admirer of the work of Chris Nolan, forget the bloated budgeted 'Inception' (yes, I'm still bashing that one). Instead look to the little known little film, "Ink".
Set in a fantastical world where those who give you nice dreams - the Storytellers - battle those who give you nightmares - the Incubi - the story centres around the enigmatic Ink, neither one nor the other. While the two sides go about their nightly business, he kidnaps a young girl sparking off a rescue mission by the Storytellers. It's much more complicated than that of course and interwoven with Ink's travels are several layers of story that perhaps might not bear too close a scrutiny. However, accepting a dream logic entirely appropriate to the tale being told, it all hangs together surprisingly well.
It's also stunning in many, many different ways. The originality of the story extends far into the production itself, giving the whole enterprise a unique feel. For instance, the Storytellers all appear in flashbulb pops of light, while the Hellraiser-ish Incubi appear out of shadow wearing eerie grins and strange screens on their faces. Drums are used to open portals from one dreamscape to another, while 'drifters' mark territory between the principal factions. Jamin Winans' direction too is far from conventional and heightens the unsettling atmosphere. The overall effect is to create an authentic fantasy world with a well-developed mythos that stands up well against more famous creations like Oz or Middle-Earth.
Archetypes, common to the genre, are also used originally. Take the Holy Fool character of the Pathfinder. As played by Jeremy Make he jumps far too easily from 'wacky' to 'angry' and, resenting the performance, one could easily dismiss him. However, we don't (well, I didn't); he cuts a memorable figure for all the actor's limitations. Blind, wearing duct tape crosses over his eyes, he is attuned to the rhythm of the life, chanting a metronomic "1,2,3,4" as he navigates the world. Initially irritating, this chant builds to become a powerful motif, culminating in one standout sequence where he sets off a chain of events just to 'shake the shit' out of someone. Like a string of dominoes, a street artist painting a picture somehow triggers a car crash. It looks dreamlike and even more importantly feels magical.
All this despite the cold hard reality that this movie was made for peanuts. It features no one you've ever heard of and didn't even get a distribution. In fact the legend has it that it was made for €250,000! This is simply insane, especially given that it plays Hollywood off the pitch on every level. There is no major fantasy film of the last ten years that takes the chances 'Ink' does and wins.
The legend continues that when no company would take up the film to distribute, the only way the film could be seen was by illegal download. Unorthodox, and not entirely endorsed (though the producers have subsequently celebrated piracy), this nevertheless opened the movie to a hitherto inaccessible audience. (It can be 'rented' on Youtube and is free to view on some sites.)
While watching it, another low-budget fantasy flick, 'Mirrormask', often came to mind. It too uses a young girl and her travels in a fantasy realm to counterpoint a harsh reality, but 'Mirrormask' was the brainchild of fantasy heavyweight, Neil Gaiman. 'Ink' has no pedigree, no money, and yet still triumphs through originality, beauty and sheer bravura.
'Ink' is not without its faults. An unknown cast is bound to have some weak links (though the leads, especially little Emma, are very strong). The story, as I've said, depends a little too much on circular reasoning, and the dialogue requires some polish. However, the ambition on display, the desire to tell a complex story with complex characters, ultimately wins out. A masterpiece of low-budget filmmaking, everyone should give 'Ink' a chance.

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