John Walker's Electronic House

Mirror Mask

by on Jul.25, 2005, under The Rest

Huge thanks to Landlord Hicks for having linked me to the Mirror Mask trailer:

Just wow.

I saw it for the first time last night, not recognising the name (despite having perused the illustrated script in Waterstones, gooey-eyed staring at the art of Dave McKean), and not knowing what to expect. Some ghastly hyperbole about the Wizard of Oz immediately worried me, but then the pictures appeared. It was Dave McKean’s illustrations, but moving, alive. I sat stock-still, shivers filling my neck and back, my jaw stupidly open throughout, and by the end a fat tear had spilled from each eye. At a trailer.

In the company I keep, names like Neil Gaimen are well worn and too easy. But for me, a person who hasn’t read Sandman, he’s something new, and someone I’ve only explored in his utterly wonderful children’s books. The Wolves In The Walls is how all children’s books should be written. The ad bumph says it all:

“Lucy is sure there are Wolves living in the walls of her house, but her family doesn’t believe her.

Then one day, the wolves come out…”

Gaimen’s understanding of glee, that the macabre delights, and the brilliant use of jam to replace blood, is fantastic. But what made me fall in love with the book was the striking nature of the McKean’s illustrations. A combination of hand drawn cartoons photographic collage, and… something that might be pastel, but I’m not sure, creates something completely other. As I write, Kieron’s firing off names of other McKean/Gaimen books I should already have read – the joy is, I still have them to read.

So yes, I’m Mr New To All This, but that only strengthens the grip this Mirror Mask promo has on me. McKean’s vision is imagination in pictures. Imagination is often lazily translated into “unusual” or “not reality”. Imagination is reality and unreality combined, history and potential given no constrictions and set free. And that’s what this trailer shows. If the film is this good, it will be all-consumingly wondrous. If it’s not, and I mean this, then I still have the trailer.

That this is coming from the last remaining tendrils of the Jim Henson company is wonderful. It may be their bowing out. There’s a reason why Muppet movies always make me cry like an idiot: because Henson understood imagination. Not “ways to make kids think”, but ways to paint the screen with wonder. The Labyrinth may suffer from Bowie’s haircut and ominous lycra bulges, but it remains visually beautiful. It was care and love and passion focused into creative energy. As his wretched offspring prostitute their father’s work for every last cent they can strangle out, there does seem to be some of Henson’s magic left in the parts that haven’t been sold to Disney or whoever else wrote the biggest cheque.

Imagination means so much to anyone worth knowing. It’s the dividing line between ‘adults’ and ‘grown ups’. Anyone who allows themselves the notion of having finished their journey to the point where they feel secure to say that they have ‘grown up’ has shed their imagination. They’ve lost sight of the joys of impossible potential and unreal desires. As the education system drains the last vestiges of imaginative teaching and teaching imagination from its curricula, and society condemns the dreamer, seeing something so utterly, compellingly beautiful as this little film advert has wrapped my heart in blankets.

I’m often asked to justify my love for the PC game The Longest Journey. Those who play it as a result of my endless promotion quickly discover the terrible point-n-click puzzles, and often become infuriated with my deception. I’ve tried so many times to articulate what it is about the game that raises it above such niggles, that makes it so very special and worthy of such tireless celebration. It’s the above. It’s that love of imagination, and the desire to fall into its deep volcano. The article linked just above is one stab I’ve had at attempting to explain this.

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