I had the extreme good fortune last night to attend a prescreening of “Ink”, a locally produced urban fantasy film that opens next week Friday at the Starz Filmcenter in Denver
Ink is the latest offering from indy producer Double Edge Films. Previous films include “Spin” and “11:59”, which I haven’t yet had the pleasure to see. This movie sounded designed to hit me right where I live. As I said to friends beforehand, “It sounds like it’s about Good and Evil having epic battles for your soul inside of your dreams.” What’s not to like? I’m there, man.
So I was not surprised that I loved every minute of it. What I wasn’t prepared for was how breathtakingly beautiful this movie was. From start to finish, it was a thing of exquisite loveliness. It made me happy, heart and soul.
As the movie opens, we meet the little girl Emma: playful, imaginative, full of demands (as children are). Her father, John, is a high-powered executive trying to keep his company ahead of the competition. We’re not sure at first which opening scenes are present and which are flashbacks, but we get a sense that John’s life is a little empty, a little too corporate, that he’s uncomfortably distant from his family.
We are also soon introduced to the Storytellers and the Incubi. Up and down the suburban neighborhood where Emma lives with her grandparents, we watch lights going out and people falling asleep… and strange beings not quite of our world approaching their bedsides. As the Storytellers touch a sleeper’s forehead, beautiful dreams are born to uplift the spirit and soothe the soul. As the Incubi send shadows oozing over their victims, nightmares erupt to steal the dreamer’s peace, self-confidence, and sense of worth.
And someone else slips into Emma’s bedroom–the shaggy-cloaked, mishapen character known as “ink,” who steals the dreaming Emma away. In the waking world, her body remains in a coma. In the world of dreams, ink is taking her to the Incubi as a sacrificial offering, that they will condescend to lift him out of his suffering and into their ranks.
The Storytellers mobilize for a rescue. Emma’s life is at stake. So are questions of love and loss, despair and redemption, bravery and courage, for Emma and for her father and for ink himself.
Throughout, the movie does an incredible job of reproducing the distinctive sense of being in a dream: the way dreams repeat incidents with variations, the way they open hidden compartments and unfamiliar passageways in familiar houses, the way shapes and places change. When the Storytellers fight with ink in Emma’s grandmother’s house, smashed furniture puts itself back together and characters leap over walls that in waking life meet the ceiling. The fight itself proceeds according to an altered sense of time, as though partially a matter of stop-motion photography–watch the trailers to get a sense of it. I found particularly delightful how ink and the Storytellers traveled from one dream locale to another, the way they opened doorways of light or traveled through moving pictures by playing on small finger-drums that hung from their clothing like charms.
It was also fun to play “spot that location”. The entire movie was filmed in the Denver area, complete with RTD buses and trains, downtown highrises, aspen forests near Kebler Pass, and art buffalo lining the 16th Street Mall. During the Q&A session after the movie, someone asked about the hospital scenes; apparently these were filmed … I’m going to get this wrong … thanks to a fortuitous move in Brighton, I think it was? Staff were moving out of one hospital and into another, and Double Edge Films had about a week to use the just-abandoned building and what was left of its equipment.
Those of you who have seen “Spin” may recognize the earlier production’s spirit in a gorgeously choreographed scene midway through the movie, where a single wind-blown dollar is the first step in a complex chain reaction that brings Emma’s father to a life-changing crisis point. Music combines with rapidly alternating shots of the different players in the scene–and in the middle of it all, one of our main characters blissfully engineering it like an orchestra conductor–and this is the point when I started weeping for the sheer beauty of it all. I’m not sure I can explain it better than that. Just go see it.
I was reminded strongly of City of the Lost Children and Mirrormask what with the potential of dream reality to affect waking life. But the stakes are higher in ink. This movie doesn’t proceed according to fairy tale logic, for all that it borrows fairy tale elements.
And yet, though the story’s conflicts are of life-and-death importance, hope is stronger than despair, and no failure is forever. The blurb at the Starz FilmCenter tickets purchase page (go there, right now, buy tickets!) likens ink to, among other things, It’s A Wonderful Life; that’s not far off the mark, considering that a strong theme in the movie is that it’s never too late for redemption.
“This is who you’ve become,” the Storytellers whisper in the dreams of the broken. “This isn’t who you have to be.”
Have I mentioned that you need to go see this? You really, really do. And if you like it, go see it again with friends in tow. Double Edge Films is following an unorthodox path, compared to other indy productions. Instead of focusing on the film festival circuit, they’ve followed up their Santa Barbara debut with this two-week run at Starz FilmCenter (which is a wonderful venue, by the way, one of a seemingly dying breed of independent theaters with no before-show ads, lots of excellent indy films, and Mighty Leaf tea and bottles of microbrew at the concession stand). The better it performs here in Denver, the better distribution it’ll get worldwide in the megaplexes with the comfy seats and overpriced popcorn.
So. Support your local film artists and give your soul a tonic! Go see ink on its opening weekend, and tell everyone you know about it! And if you go to the Saturday March 14th 7:00 showing, say hi–my husband and I and a couple of friends will be coming down from Boulder for another viewing. We’ll be the ones bouncing in our seats and making little happy excited squeee noises.