11 January 2019 | TheLittleSongbird
Through the looking glass
Have gotten a lot of enjoyment out of watching Russian films, especially fantasy. Both five years ago, when going on a bit of a quest to help me through an intensive period of studying, and now when re-visiting the fond happy memories during a much calmer period. Watching the films has given me great pleasure and it is somewhat too an education, getting acquainted with these stories and making one interested in learning Russian (a lovely language, though not easy to learn).
'Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors' is not one of the standouts of the "re-visiting" period and it is not one of my favourite Russian fantasies. It is still a lovely film, very entertaining and charming and with a lot in its favour. As noted, there is a 'Alice in Wonderland' influence to the story and atmosphere, but it is hardly derivative. There are enough imaginative touches to set it apart and the atmosphere has a sense of wonder, the surrealism being a big part of the appeal. It is another winner from Alexandr Rou, have not seen all his films but have liked all that have been seen. It will be a shame though that some viewers will be most familiar with him from 'Frosty' (or 'Morozko'), riffed on MST3K, which to me is not near as bad as indicated and not done justice by its dubbed version (like all the Russian fantasy films riffed).
The production values are not always mind-blowing. The costumes are over-saturated and some of the special effects do look rushed and not very special.
Some of the acting is a touch on the broad side.
On the other hand, enough of 'Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors' is colourful and nicely designed with a good deal of atmosphere. Other special effects have a charm to them and are quite imaginatively used. The music is lush and atmospheric and Rou directs with an assured touch that never gets too serious or farcical. The writing flowed enough and made enough sense, some of it is on the cheesy side but again not in a way that was distracting as it didn't feel over-the-top and it certainly doesn't complicate the storytelling which is actually pretty simple.
Liked the storytelling, which was fun and amiable with a sense of wonder and endearing quirkiness, and the viewer is fully immersed into a wonderfully bizarre world. The surrealism is done inventively and even though strange (in a captivating way) didn't to me become incoherent. The characters are immensely colourful in personality and it is difficult to not remember them. The acting is not the greatest but there was something oddly likeable in this respect.
In conclusion, very nice. 8/10 Bethany Cox