A coma sends an old man into his childhood’s sinister fantasy world, where he must fight dementia and gain back his memories before it’s too late.
Director – Stobe Harju
Starring – Marianne Farley, Quinn Lord, Francis X. McCarthy
I’m going to get literary for just a second and quote one of my favorite first lines from any novel, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Imaginaerum fits that quote to a tee. This is a film that deals with one unhappy family, and their issues run deep, but at the center is the relationship between a father and daughter.
Okay, one more digression. I subscribe to Rhapsody music service and love to bounce around listening to anything and everything. Seriously, my playlists can go from early folk music to blues to heavy metal without so much a blink of an eye. One playlist has Dolly Parton, Lords Of Acid, Andrea Bocelli and Lady Sovereign right in a row. I bring this up because I actually never heard of the Finnish band Nightwish before. Add yet another band to the mix.
And Nightwish are the driving force behind Imaginaerum. It’d be unfair to categorize this as one big music video. This film goes quite a bit deeper. In a way it’s experimental, a story that’s told through highly visual flashbacks backed by the orchestrated metal sounds of Nightwish. But the narrative is a strong one as we watch an old man battle for his memories and the love of his daughter.
Tom Whitman is seventy years old, an aging musician battling the onset of dementia. His estranged daughter, Gem, has come to take care of him, but only because she feels that she has to. And when he has another serious relapse that puts him on death’s door, she doesn’t hesitate to follow the doctor’s orders and take him off life support.
But old Tom isn’t quite dead yet. Inside, his mind rapidly regresses back to his childhood and it is here where we spend most of the movie. It starts with him in an orphanage on a cold winter night. He has just finished building a snowman, one that looks somewhat like his dad in pilot gear. But honestly, this is one creepy snowman. And as Tom falls asleep, the snowman comes to life and takes Tom with him on a journey deeper into Tom’s psyche.
I know, it sounds kinda weird and it is. This isn’t a horror movie, and it’d be hard to categorize it as a dark fantasy. As far as IMDB is concerned, it’s a drama / fantasy / musical. I have to admit, when I see a movie get so many categories it makes me worry. Usually it’s safer to nail down one genre and stay with that.
But somehow it all works here. Mind you, when you’re dealing with a film like this, not everyone is going to like it. For me, it was the visuals that got me hooked. Sometimes it got a little melodramatic but occasional excesses are okay. I’ve read that some people found it hard to follow but to me it seemed rather straight forward. The time jumps between fantasy and reality, past and present were not jarring in any way and the flow of the sequences made sense. Not everything is revealed right up front but I think it makes for a better film. Speaking of visuals, I think Stobe Harju did an excellent job of directing.
Imaginaerum is a movie that I would recommend seeing, but know what you’re getting into. If you’re a fan of Nightwish, see it. I know I’ll be listening to them now after seeing this film. If you’re a fan of movies like The Neverending Story, I’d say give this one a shot but remember that this one is much more serious. I’ve heard Tim Burton’s name thrown around but I think it has more to do with the snowman resembling Jack Skellington. Okay, maybe the visual aspect as well.
All in all, I enjoyed Imaginaerum. It might be an odd mix of theatrics, music and drama, but in the end it left me satisfied. Now excuse me while I jump onto Rhapsody and listen to some Nightwish.