Harry gets blown away by Terry Gilliam's TIDELAND @ Fantastic Fest!!!
Published at: Sept. 22, 2006, 11:01 p.m. CST by headgeek
Every now and again at a festival you see a film that has a bad reputation – where you come out understanding the reputation, but TOTALLY DISAGREEING WITH IT. Where it so flipped in your mind what you thought going in… that you’ve just got to walk away from the festival and get to a quiet place – where the chatter and talk of a thousand excited film fans fades – and you’re left with your own internal monologue to explore at a keyboard.
Tonight, that took place at FANTASTIC FEST – and the film that absolutely blew my mind was TIDELAND from Terry Gilliam.
TIDELAND, for me, is a masterpiece. A children’s fairy tale version of THE FISHER KING. It is the world as seen through the eyes and experiences of an astonishingly talented and amazing young actress named Jodelle Ferland. You got a glimpse of her in SILENT HILL, but this was the film she made just prior to that at around the age of 10. She is astonishing… as is the world that she makes for herself after both of her aging musician drug addict parents OD – leaving her at an abandoned rundown house in the middle of nowhere, that was once owned by her Grandmother… where all she has to keep herself company are some doll heads and a precocious squirrel… till the lobotomized epileptic shows up and the one eyed ex-girlfriend of her father, who is an amateur taxidermist.
Her father, played by Jeff Bridges is genius as the living father, then as a corpse he’s amazing – and then… no, you shouldn’t have it spoilt. It’s just unbelievable. This feels like Gilliam untethered and unleashed. There’s scenes that you must endure, not because they’re clumsily written or acted or staged, but because we as an audience are not as innocent as a 10 year old girl or a lobotomized simpleton. There’s whole sequences of the film where Jodelle’s Jeliza-Rose is wandering the rolling fields of grain with these two doll heads on her fingertips – and all three of them talking to one another. Finding magical fairy lightning bug homes made from the burnt out remains of a school bus that some years before claimed the lives of many when it collided with a train.
The poster features an upside down tree – while not exactly an image from the film, the iconography is exactly reflected in the mentality of the fantasy at play here. It’s topsy turvy. It’s a little girl that can’t and won’t face reality, if she ever knew what reality was. Her two parents – Jeff Bridges and Jennifer Tilly have seemingly used her to prepare their fixes and cater to their disintegrating decaying existences – filling her mind with the stoned rantings of drug addled minds. The scene where Jeliza is preparing a hypo with smack… it’s astonishing because it’s so matter of fact, it’s almost cute… like how in an older film that was being edgy, it’d feature a child mixing a cocktail for mom or dad, here… it’s quite a bit more, yet all the same in tone. Horrifying, yet home-y.
Why is the film being waylaid by a vocal unit?
It isn’t for wide audiences. It isn’t watered down. This is Gilliam in STUNNING form. This isn’t churned out of a machine, it’s got blood, sweat and tears in it. The imagery is shocking, in your face and absolutely captivating. However, this isn’t a directly logical tale – it’s poetry, art -- One filmmaker that was present saw the film as a metaphor for becoming a woman, leaving the protective parental nest and empowering yourself through sexuality. OK – or it could be a tale about a 10 year old coping with having nobody to care for her, going into denial, creating her own death mythology and trying to survive without facing or encountering reality.
I was so incredibly blown away by this film. It’s the sort of film that’s images, subject matter and content can either repulse or captivate. Yoko completely did not care for it. Others “need to see it again” before deciding what they think. Then there are those like me that just absolutely had their minds blown.
It plays again tomorrow – seek it out – the film is an experience, something that very few films actually offer these days. It’s a film that challenges you, offends you and shakes up your perception of the world. And if you happen to know a little girl that ripped the heads off their Barbies – or if you were that girl – there’s a strong chance that this film will be a religious experience for you. If you kept your Barbies intact… maybe not so much.