By Admin | July 20, 2004

Almost impossible to categorize, and playing like something Terry Gilliam has nightmares about, “Journey Into Bliss” is either something you’ll admire or absolutely despise. Hell, it took me a few days just to get over the shock of watching it.

The movie screened at FantAsia 2004 to a completely packed house. In fact, there were more people for this single showing than for any other film I’ve been to since the festival started.

Mitch Davis, one of the directors here for international programming, had been raving about it since I arrived. After watching it, I understand why. I also understand that I am never ever going to “get” it.

It’s a German surrealist film, and as such, it’s weird beyond belief. Structured like a children’s movie, the film follows the exploits of Captain Gustav who once saved the life of another boy from drowning. This boy later grew up to be the Captain’s “best” friend, never leaving his side and making life miserable. So, when a beautiful woman asks for shelter at their home one day, the Captain escapes with her; taking to the sea. There, they start a family, fight tyranny and leave their pasts behind, or do they?

What follows involves talking animals, children who smoke, a crew in black face, traveling through time and a hell of a lot more instances of golden showers than I ever wanted to see in a movie. I know that I’m summarizing a LOT here, but the movie lends itself to that with its episodic nature. However, it’s never confusing, just non-sensical. Quite an accomplishment considering how bizarre all the proceedings sometimes get.

When Mitch introduced the film, he mentioned that it only cost $80,000 and was filmed over the course of 10 years. I’m going to tip my hat to Mr. Storch here because the film looks like it cost 8 million, not 80 grand. The film also never has that made-over-a-long-time look. It’s a complete and unified vision from beginning to end. Amazing.

Another nice touch is that it’s whimsical and unpretentious. It can be seen either as a post-modern interpretation of the rise of Hitler or as a simple fairy tale. Storch never really forces either version and always maintains a sense of goofy fun.

Did I like it? I can’t even say. I admire it for what it is, but at the same time I took no enjoyment from it. Sure, it’s worth watching, but it’s also overlong and takes one too many turns in the Twilight Zone. Weird for the sake of weird can be fun, but the film gets burned out on it. By the time the credits rolled I felt pummeled. Depending on how you look at it, the film either earns no stars or five. I gave it three as a compromise.

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