The Brothers Grimm

Terry Gilliam has crafted a bizarre, baroque film (does he make any other kind?) around the stories collected and popularized by the Brothers Grimm.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by Terry Gilliam

Written by Ehren Kruger

Production design by Guy Dyas

Cast:

Matt Damon as Wilhelm Grimm
Heath Ledger as Jakob Grimm
Lena Headey as Angelika
Peter Stormare as Cavaldi
Jonathan Pryce as Delatombe
Mackenzie Crook as Hedlick
Richard Ridings as Bunst
Monica Bellucci as Mirror Queen
Tomás Hanák as Woodsman
Frantisek Velecký as Deranged Old Crone
Alena Jakobova as Little Red Riding Hood

Premise:

Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm make a living in early 19th-century Germany as con artist ghostbusters. They find themselves drawn into an actual haunting, in a rural village beset by supernatural forces.

High Point:

The scene in the old mill that establishes the adult Grimms, and Jakob’s first experiences in the tower, both prove exhilarating. Gilliam knows how to make even standard movie-making magic work to best effect.

Low Point:

Like Gilliam’s version of Baron Munchausen, this film carries on too long for its own good.

In the context of this peculiar story, it makes sense to use Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm as the heroes who defeat the film’s forces of evil, and the fact that these characters gleefully bear little resemblance to the real-life scholars may be a moot point. However, calling the movie The Brothers Grimm— pre-publicity be damned—-will have a lot of people expecting some kind of biopic.

The Scores:

Originality: 5/6 Kruger and Gilliam have based their film on the stories collected by the real-life Brothers Grimm, but they have reconstructed them in an original manner.

Effects: 5/6 The effects are often spectacular. In particular, the movement of the Enchanted Forest impresses. Some of the CGI doesn’t quite work for me. The wolf-creature looks great, but its movement isn’t very convincing.

Story: 3/6. The story follows its own dreamlike logic. It’s fascinating but chaotic, and not always satisfying. The ending also feels too Hollywood, too out of step with what we’ve seen.

Acting: 4/6. The quality of the performances varies. The cast has chemistry, and they do well with the Pythonesque touches of humor that run throughout the film. However, the stylized hamminess becomes too much at times.

Production: 5/6 Gilliam definitely knows how to use film technology to serve his personal visions, however strange they may be.

Emotional Response: 4/6 The film is thrilling in places.

Overall: 4/6.

In total, The Brothers Grimm receives 30/42.

Additional Comments

There’s some kind of reason/passion subtext, with the two sides represented by the conflicting biases of the brothers, by order/technology and intuition/storytelling, by Revolutionary France and German Romanticism. Reason has been rather shabbily represented however, and I haven’t quite worked out the film’s ideology. I’m not entirely certain Kruger or Gilliam have, either.

3 replies on “The Brothers Grimm”

  1. vanyel says:

    Very Grimm indeed
    I was really disappointed by this movie; while the forest special effects were quite good, there was one scene early in the forest where they forgot to remove some wires. And that’s just a minor nit.

    It doesn’t seem likely that people would think of this as a biopic when the previews clearly state that they encounter real magic, though one might be inclined to suspect it includes some parts of their real lives. I don’t know anything about them to judge though.

    The weak point for me was the entire bit with Jonathon Pryce and the French/German conflict — I really hated it, and especially the Cavaldi character. He was annoying all the way through, and then the resolution of his character wasn’t sufficiently developed to justify it. Perhaps Terry Gilliam fans will like the farce, but it was just too absurd for me, and I didn’t much care for the gore either. I think it was there to motivate their continued forays into the forest after they realized that the magic was real, but I think that could have been managed in a more believable fashion. If you want the evil king and minions to drive the plot, go back and watch the Princess Bride again to see how to do it.

    As expected, they throw in elements of many of the popular fairy tales, but more as throw away gags than key elements of the story. I think the story would have been much better, and potentially funnier, if they’d played up those instead of the French/German conflict.

    Finally, at the end there is a scene that at first glance is stupidly homophobic. The action itself isn’t so much so when you think about what the characters are doing and who they are, but when you think about why it’s even in the movie in the first place (to shock the mostly straight audience), you realize that your first impression was right. Not that such situations can’t be funny, it’s just that in this case, it’s sole purpose is to play up and reinforce the "ick factor" that two guys might actually kiss, however unromantically or justified in the situation. It is simply inexcusable today.

    I suspect Terry Gilliam fans may have a better reaction to the movie, and I also think I had too high expectations for it, considering I should have figured it would be rather like this going in, but it really left me feeling like I’d wasted the afternoon seeing it, even though there were good parts, particularly Heath Ledger’s acting…

    • Timeshredder says:

      Re: Very Grimm indeed

      It doesn’t seem likely that people would think of this as a biopic when the previews clearly state that they encounter real magic, though one might be inclined to suspect it includes some parts of their real lives.

      I missed the wires.

      You’ve hit it with this comment, though. Even I expected a fantasy with some connection to the Grimms’ actual lives, and I think a lot of people are expecting something a little more than that.

      • y42 says:

        Re: Very Grimm indeed

        It doesn’t seem likely that people would think of this as a biopic when the previews clearly state that they encounter real magic, though one might be inclined to suspect it includes some parts of their real lives.

        I missed the wires.

        You’ve hit it with this comment, though. Even I expected a fantasy with some connection to the Grimms’ actual lives, and I think a lot of people are expecting something a little more than that.

        There you go, expecting things from Terry Gilliam… tsk, tsk, tsk. Just sit down and be confused like the rest of us! ;-)

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