This is a film I had heard about here and there for the last couple of years now. I spotted it on Netflix and was going to get to it eventually, but Emie from Dancing With Jellyfish insisted that I watch it sooner rather than later. So here is today’s WTF Sunday.
A beautiful dream. With fighting.
Your dreams are not your own. They are given to you while you sleep by the spirits of the dead. These spirits come in two types: the Storytellers and the Incubi. The Storytellers bring good dreams while the Incubi fill your mind with shadows and nightmares. One lost, damaged soul calling himself Ink steals the consciousness of a little girl called Emma, to give her to the Incubi as a tribute so they will make him one of them. As Emma’s body lies comatose, a group of Storytellers try to get her soul back before it’s too late. Kung-fu ensues.
Good lord, where do I start? This is maybe the most uniquely imaginative film I have seen in a very long time. Since it is built in the world of dreams, it is only fitting that the story unfolds as a dream would; full of fractured moments that may or may not have any meaning, but slowly come together to create a wonderful whole. Shot in and around Denver on a budget of $250,000, multi-hyphenate husband and wife team Jamin and Kiowa Winans* have produced a film that defies easy description (despite what that last paragraph may have you believe) and has an ending that I could see coming after twenty minutes, but still is constructed so well that I completely forgave any minor predictability. I would not be surprised if all the credits at the end of this movie were just made up, and the film was made by directly recording an actual dream. To read this you might think it sounds a bit confusing, and maybe it is a bit at times but you will make the connections that you are supposed to make as and when you are supposed to make them.
The cast are mostly local Denver actors, and for many of them this was only their first or second movie. There are one or two moments where the quality of the performance doesn’t quite meet the expected standard and in most cases I would be drawing attention to those, but here it really does not matter. There are a few on the good end of the spectrum that I want to single out though. Chris Kelly, who plays Emma’s father John, is a huge presence in the movie. As the only main character who doesn’t have any interaction with the spirits, he has probably the most difficult job of all and he pulls it off admirably. Quinn Hunchar is fantastic as Emma, and Jessica Duffy is wonderfully stoic and compassionate as her Storyteller protector Liev. The most entertaining performance though is easily Jeremy Make as Jacob. He is a Pathfinder, a spirit who can “hear the beat of the world” and is the only Storyteller who can influence events in the real world. He is also blind and spends the whole film with X’s made of electrical tape across his eyes. When you see him running full pelt through traffic you will have your heart in your mouth, I guarantee it.
The fight scenes deserve special mention as well. There are two major fights in the movie; one sets up the story and the other resolves it. Both are stunningly original, like everything else. Since the Storytellers and Incubi cannot impact on the real world, and no one in the real world can even see them, to watch them throw down in a packed corridor while people walk through the scene obliviously is just thrilling, and an example of the relationship between great choreography, cinematography and editing that goes into creating a really good action sequence, particularly on such a low-budget production. Speaking of cinematography, Jeff Pointer has shot the film with a camera that never seems to stop moving. This just adds to the dream-like aspect of the whole thing, especially when you throw in the blown-out colours and filters that are used to differentiate between all the layers in which the story unfolds.
I’ve tried to be as vague as I can in today’s column. I want to whet your appetite for this movie, without giving anything away. Normally I’m not too bothered about spoilers (as long as the Cap’n is around to warn you) but in this case I know most of you will not have seen the film, and I really want all of you to see it with as little fore-knowledge as possible. And just to help make your mind up that last little bit, here’s the trailer featuring Jamin Winans’ simple but gorgeous piano-driven score (which I am off to download now).
*Jamin: Writer-producer-director-editor-composer-distributor. Kiowa: Executive producer-costume design-art design-sound design-sound editor. Apparently some other people helped out too.