An account of Baron Munchausen's supposed travels and fantastical experiences with his band of misfits.An account of Baron Munchausen's supposed travels and fantastical experiences with his band of misfits.An account of Baron Munchausen's supposed travels and fantastical experiences with his band of misfits.
Though the miniature effects by today's standards might seem rather primitive, the scope and scale of the film, combined with some exceptional and exquisite art direction and acting, create an incredible visual tapestry. Unknown to much of the audience at the time, Gilliam's film was to be the future of movies in terms of genre and character exposition. I and an acquaintance of mine at the time were hopeful that "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" would succeed, because then it would open the doors for other "superhero" films, and push story telling to its limits. But, that was back in 1989, and the boom that we anticipated took some fifteen years to take off. Well, at least our careers weren't riding on that hedge... but I digress.
The other aspect of this film, as I was reminded of on the IMDb BBS, is that the story itself is a blend of both an old Russian tale, "The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship", and Rupert Raspe's take on Baron Munchausen's tall tales. In short, without divulging facts of either sets of fables, the Baron, as originally portrayed, was just a little too robust, and the Russian tale offers a chance to splinter the Baron's self aggrandizement.
Some facts you won't find in the film; Baron Munchausen was a real man, and liked to "brag" about himself (to put it mildly). He actually fought for the Turks, being a German mercenary for hire. He claimed to have all kinds of amazing abilities with a gentleman's character (even having visited Royalty as well as the U.S. and the president in the white-house), but was more or less simply a soldier of fortune.
Gilliam's film, in this vein, pays homage to Munchausen, real and fictional alike by playing fast and loose with the "facts" of his dual existence. In this way it's a pleasant ride, and the sets and locations are incredible to look at.
Critiques; there's a couple of miniature shots that bug me--in particular the ballroom dancing sequence. I'm sure it was a difficult shot to get, but some articulation of the models was really a must to sell this sequence. Using a process shot for the closeups kind of added to the destruction of the illusion. Putting the actors on a scissor's life, and shooting them against the actual set would've served the production better, and probably saved money (a must for this production). Also, it's a tragedy the moon sequence, as originally envisioned, wasn't realized. Were left with two actors to carry that sequence, instead of the highly populated kingdom as described in the actual tales.
The new DVD is a blessing. The colors and details of the film are far richer than the original DVD release. The colors are vibrant and rich in luminosity. They accentuate the late 18th century visual thrust that this film is attempting to deliver. On top of that the overall level of visual information has been enhanced from both initial DVD and VHS releases. One can almost feel the texture of the clothes and clouds as they scroll and undulate across the screen. A definite plus.
A very fine film that predates superhero and fantasy genres by almost a couple of decades. As I stated earlier, some of the SFX may not hold, but the overall scope of the film should prove more than a counterweight to this, and give to the viewer an emotional and visual effulgent experience.
WARNING; it's not a film for everyone. As a family film it skirts the edges of PG and PG-13 territory, and the far-out nature of the film may be a bit too existential for some adults to absorb. Still, I liked it very much.
- May 13, 2008