Movie Reviews
3:42 pm
Wed January 21, 2009

Inkheart

A fitting metaphor

"Books are like imprisoned souls till someone takes them down from a shelf and frees them." Samuel Butler


I don't know about you, but writing is hard work for me. Loving each word I write, I am equally tortured that it's the right word and that I'll still be employed by the station after they see how much trouble some of my words cause (yes, I can be difficult). Crossing the challenges of both reading and writing, Inkheart depicts an author's characters coming alive upon readings by a "silvertongue," a gifted person who makes it happen. The pain and adventure caused by words coming alive is a fitting metaphor for the processes of writing and reading.

Like reading a dense novel, watching this film is work rewarded by a notably upbeat attitude toward the whole process, an adventure in transcendent discovery accompanied by loneliness, uncertainty, and failure. Like a challenging read (in my case Conrad's Heart of Darkness), viewing the film requires attention to plot details best appreciated by subsequent readings or viewings.

Mo "Silvertongue" Folchart (Brendan Fraser, once again giving a bad name to minimalist acting) can read fictional characters into reality and thereby suck a real person into the realm, so the film (based on the popular young adult novel by German writer Cornelia Funke) is full of displaced persons, including his wife, all of whom he will spend 2 hours trying to return to their native environment.

While The Chronicles of Narnia and Stardust are hovering around the spirit of this fantasy, Wizard of Oz's Toto reminds us that there is no place like home. Other allusions probably slipped by me, but Helen Mirren's eccentric Elinore is compared to Jean Giraudoux's Madwoman of Chaillot by a typically tossed-off shot of the playbook when Mirren enters.

Inkheart is nerdy stuff, love of books and all that, but it has a charm even if you're not a bibliophile: the challenge of writing, the trauma of writer's block, the need for rewriting, and the exhilaration of characters coming to life in the imagination through reading are chronicled with a modicum of action freighted with heavy philosophizing.

"Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself . . . . You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms." Angela Carter