Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
United Kingdom/Czech Republic/USA, 2005. Dimension Films, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Mosaic Media Group, Reforma Films, Atlas Entertainment. Screenplay by Ehren Kruger. Cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel. Produced by Daniel Bobker, Charles Roven. Music by Dario Marianelli. Production Design by Guy Hendrix Dyas. Costume Design by Gabriella Pescucci, Carlo Poggioli. Film Editing by Lesley Walker. Venice Film Festival 2005.
After numerous post-production delays, Terry Gilliam’s muddled fantasy film was finally released and revealed to be just as heavy-handed and unfocused as his last attempt in the genre, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Heath Ledger and Matt Damon play the titular heroes, two swindlers who travel from village to village in early nineteenth century Germany taking advantage of folkloric ignorance and superstition to make money. When one of Napoleon’s generals (Jonathan Pryce) holding court in their occupied country exposes their ruse of creating fake witches and ghosts and taking money to banish them, the brothers are threatened with execution unless they do the general a favour: they must go into a dense forest that really does seem to be haunted and find out why young girls from its neighbouring village are going missing. This they do, and in their investigation meet an implausibly modern heroine (Lena Headey) and discover the legend of a beautiful queen (Monica Bellucci, who looks ravishing) who is also an evil witch. The visually striking adventure that follows should have been more exciting and engrossing, but Gilliam’s pacing is uneven and there’s no heart to the story.