Bonecrushing Display of Phosphorescence
Rest assured that there is little relationship between this film and Carroll’s poem about his father’s crusade against French etymology.
Instead, we have the first chapter in Gilliam’s quest for an appropriate vehicle for his imagination. That imagination isn’t comic in the ordinary sense. Gilliam’s world is one which is architecturally cinematic, has lots of incongruous objects, and is governed by alternate laws of whimsey. The humour comes in the incidental overlaps between our world and his. These overlaps are accomplished by his commitment to various narrative tricks of folding: visions, hallucinations, irony, invented memory.
You can follow his quest — which is much like the quest depicted here — through episodes of social commentary, puppet shows, sexual innuendo and pratfalls. Nothing works in this film or in his career until “Fear and Loathing” which is perfect.
If you insist on watching this, at least you can see his treatment of space. It is inexpert here, but you can see his respect for presenting the space of a scene. Some of these are bald theft from Eisenstein’s Ivan films and Tarkovsky’s nod to them “Andrei Rublev”.
Ted’s Evaluation — 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.