MirrorMask

Director: Dave McKean
Cast: Stephanie Leonidas, Gina McKee, Rob Brydon

Reviewer: Bob the Goldfish

Let’s not mince words here. MirrorMask is a fantastic film. Rich, vivid and imaginative, it is a must-see for all Neil Gaiman fans and should be highly recommended to everyone else. For it is instantly recognisable as Gaiman’s work; the strange characters and meandering dreamland could easily be compared to Sandman. But this is no bad thing. As I said, fans will find it endearing. Non-fans and newcomers may warm to his style, as it is less complex, with a more coherent plot than Sandman. The film is also a very distinctive example of director Dave McKean’s work, and his direction fits Gaiman’s vision.

The plot involves a young girl called Helena (Stephanie Leonidas). Initially a Surly Teenager™, she has grown up in and around the circus her father owns and wishes she could run away join normal life. See what they did there? When her mother is taken ill and must undergo a life-threatening operation, Helena dreams up/stumbles into a strange dreamland filled with familiar faces all hidden behind masks. In this world, which is split into light and dark, everyone wears masks. These masks convey their emotions or status. However, this premise is quickly forgotten in favour of a quest to find the Mirrormask, the charm that will wake the Queen of the Light World (who just happens to look like Helena’s mother). In this quest, she is aided (and hindered) by clownish sidekick Valentine, a resident of the dreamworld. The two of them form an unlikely partnership, with Helena striving to do what’s right and Valentine merely trying to make some money.

MirrorMask is full of highly entertaining moments, from the Sphinx (Robert Llewellyn) to the quite disturbing music box sequence. Believe me, you’ve never heard ”Why do birds suddenly appear?“ performed like this before. The script is very funny and quite touching. I really did care about the characters despite the dreamland setting. The visual style is quite dark, with the dreamworld mirroring the style of Helena’s own art. The strange colouring brings to mind images of surrealist and modern art. The characters are all colourful and the costumes are exquisitely designed, most notably the Black Queen’s. While this style may not suit all tastes, it is without doubt a unique film. Funny and clever, beautiful and dark, charming and surreal, MirrorMask is the only film I will recommend to everyone I know. So go see it.