The City is under attack by the Turks and while the government know it alls claim to have it all in hand, the townspeople are being treated with a theatrical presentation of the adventures of Baron Munchausen. That is, until the real Baron shows up and tells them that the siege outside their gates is really his fault, but not to fear. He will set it right, again.
Gillaim to a T
As hard as this movie was for me to eventually find, within my budget constraints, it was far more difficult to make. There is a reason that Terry Gilliam has frequently had troubles getting his films made. This film is one of those reasons. Over budget, over schedule, and under performing at the box office, “Adventures of Baron Munchausen” is a prime example of Gilliam’s imagination run amok for anyone looking for reasons not to invest in his films.
Gilliam films are usually a bit uneven and this film is no exception. there are certainly dry spells which make it drag slightly but unlike “Time Bandits,” this film seems to be more in control of its theme and better at presenting it naturally rather than didactically.
In some ways, this film feels like the quintessential Gilliam film. All Gilliam films seem to draw from the same pool of elements and ideas. It is one of the things that makes his films so easy to spot at a glance. The theme, as usual, is what I ended up loving about this film and why I think this movie is the most gilliamesque of Gilliam’s films (with a possible exception for “Brazil.”)
No one seems so fascinated by and adept at exploring the power of myth and story in our lives as Terry Gilliam. His character of Baron Munchausen is based on a real person who was known for exaggerated boasts and tall tales surrounding his stories so it seems almost fitting that his film should be entirely fictional and full of grand stories ranging from the exotic middle east to the surface of the moon.
What stories are true and what makes them true is a huge element of this movie. We hear Baron Munchausen and his band of crazy characters tell some pretty tall tales but they also do seemingly impossible things, so who is to say if they are lying or not, or is Gilliam the unreliable one, or are we? It is all very nebulous, in this film, as it seems to be in life, at times.
As is typical in Gilliam, it seems all government, business, and organizations are plagued to bureaucratic meaninglessness, leaving the individual to do what must be done, although along the way they must learn to reign in their independent spirit ever so slightly. In this film, this bureaucracy is not as extreme or dire feeling as in “Brazil” nor is it the stuff of an evil deity as in “Time Bandits.” It is just people being the fantastic version of people as we know them.
Although the films are quite different, this movie’s general theme seemed very similar to Tim Burton’s “Big Fish.” Although that film had more sentimental heart, the question of what is an isn’t true of the legends we look up to is a very similar theme to the one being explored here.
As is usual with Gilliam, the film is pretty uneven. If I’m honest, I was a little bored at times and it wasn’t until the end of the film that I really felt the thematic elements working the way they were intended to. But the ride is tremendously fun and full of the whimsical practical effects I have come to expect and love from Gilliam. It isn’t my favorite of his but it is certainly up there and I am definitely looking forward to my next viewing of it.
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