One of the things I like about Christmas is that there’s usually a veritable feast of films on the telly. Sometimes you can pluck out a plum, but it has to be said that many are simply turkeys.
Last night, the BBC gave us Terry Gilliam’s The Brothers Grimm. A definite plum as far as I was concerned. I’d not seen it before so I’m pleased to have rectified the omission. I have to say that I wasn’t instantly won over to the very American double act of Heath Ledger and Matt Damon as the eponymous Brothers, but as the story, and more to the point, the visuals unfolded, the more I was entranced. Gilliam has a remarkable talent for visuals, both striking and grotesquely funny. The scene of Red Riding Hood in the forest with the camera tracking was not only striking but magisterial. And scenes such as in the Duke’s torture chamber allow Gilliam to indulge his sense of the grotesque to the full.
But it’s when Gilliam pulls off one of his heart-stopping sequences that I see quite how brilliant he can be at his best. The sequence that begins with the raven drowning in the well and leading to the mud-child/gingerbread man absorbing Sasha, the young child in the village, was quite one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen. Probably because it did push all the buttons that were implanted by the original tales that I read as a child. I’m certainly glad I didn’t see the film sequence when I was young – I’d probably have been really scarred for life.