Director: Eric Leiser
Writers: Eric Leiser, Jeffrey Leiser
Producer: Joseph Cahill
Starring: Ed K. Gildersleeve, Nikki Haddad, Jessi Haddad, Courtney Sanford, Travis Poelle
MPAA Rating: NR
Running time: 70 min
reviewed by Andrew James
One of the things I like about truly independent cinema is that it gives the director a chance to create what they want to. There’s no one around to tell them that they’re “doing it wrong,” or that it should be cut this way or that. It’s a creative vision fulfilled to the director’s wishes as best they can with the budget allowed. With that, comes Imagination; a film that definitely wouldn’t be allowed from a major studio producer. Here’s a film that really does capture someone’s imagination.
Anna and Sarah are identical twins that seem removed from the world somehow. They’re always swept up with their imaginations and seem out of touch with everyone and everything around them. The mother is at her wits end so refers them to a doctor. After months of testing, he diagnoses them with Asperger’s Syndrome. A sort of mild form of autism. As time wears on, the girls seem more and more distant and the mother becomes convinced that the visions and drawings of the girls are somehow prophetic.
The story itself isn’t actually all that compelling. It’s even difficult to understand at times. What makes this film so interesting are the technical aspects and the style(s) that is used. Leiser has employed the use of several interesting tactics. More than half of the film is some sort of animation or surreal version of reality. Lots of stop-motion animation that uses puppets, drawing and clay molds among other things to give us a taste of the girls’ thoughts and imagination. At times, time-lapse photography is used in the real world along with mirrors and symmetry to create a totally surreal world that begs to be gauked at. It really is truly impressive technique with sort of a Tim Burton meets Michel Gondry feel to it.
The other aspect, perhaps even more amazing, is the film’s score by co-writer Jeffrey Leiser. It’s top notch aural excitement that any major motion picture could be proud of. In fact, it’s maybe in the top three scores I’ve heard this year. Ranging from electronic sound enhancement to full blown orchestral pieces and even a make-shift choir through the voice of just one girl. It’s a great range and each “tune” is noticeable and impactful. It might be worth checking out the film just for this.
On the negative side, while I understand budgetary constraints and indie film makers not having access to all of the resources a major motion picture has, the actors involved leave more than a little to be desired. You can tell that they’re interested in what they’re doing, but it’s hard to take any of the live action moments very seriously when the actors are like cardboard cut-outs reading a script. It’s possible that this was the intention as some sort of metaphorical message about the real world not being as interesting as the imagined; but I kind of doubt it and if that is the case, it should’ve been more properly explained.
The other problem is the story itself. It’s not particularly interesting (and maybe that has a lot to do with the shoddy acting). I kept expecting a big revelation or some sort of twist. Alas, it was not to be and we get a vague sense of what really happened by the end. Still, like I mentioned, the film isn’t really about story. It’s about mood and style; something this film delivers in spades. I could fathom a less patient viewer slinking his hand towards the remote control with the intent of fast forwarding if not caught in the right mood.
Not without negative criticism, the movie does work on a few levels and for me, would be worth getting into again when in the mood for something a little different in the visual department. At just over an hour, the film is a bit too long but not quite long enough to be considered a full length feature. If just a bit of the extended live action shots were trimmed down, this would be an animator’s wet dream. If for nothing else, this is a glimpse into film makers’ minds that undoubtedly have great things in their future.
Click “play” to see the trailer: