cover art for Imagination
|Directed by||Eric Leiser|
|Produced by||Jules Engel
|Written by||Eric Leiser
|Music by||Jeffrey Leiser|
animation: Eric Leiser
|Edited by||Eric Leiser
Albino Fawn Productions
|Distributed by||Vanguard International Cinema|
Production and release
The project was shot on locations in Prague, Czech Republic, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The film premiered on April 30, 2007 at the 2007 AFIA film festival in Aarhus, Denmark, and was released theatrically in the United States on July 6, 2007, and worldwide by Vanguard International Cinema on February 26, 2008. The DVD release contains extra footage that includes "Making Imagination", "Behind the animation", "Q&A with filmmakers", and "Isolated scenes", as well as special cuts of the soundtrack. It was also featured at the International Animated Film Festival in Istanbul in December 2007.
Redheaded twins Anna (Nikki Haddad) and Sarah (Jessi Haddad) Woodruff, roughly 10 or 11 years old, both have Asperger, an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and Sarah is going blind. Child psychologist and researcher Dr. Reineger (Edmund Gildersleeve) tries to assure their parents (Courtney Sanford, Travis Poelle) that the kids are smart and "intricately involved in their own imagination". The children enter an institute to be studied, two family tragedies occur, and the girls escape the institution. Throughout much of the film, we see a magical, distorted world through their eyes.
The film is considered to be influenced by the Christian myth of Saint Eustace.
Frank Lovece of Film Journal International found this "sad and hypnotic tale" a film that "well evokes the trauma, abandonment fears and magical reality of childhood", and that the film "sweeps us through an array of gently bizarre beasties, times and places, such as a primordial forest where the white elms are covered with eyes. The most amazing sequence involves an earthquake evinced solely through shaky camera, sound effects, stop-motion dirt and rocks and rapid-fire cuts."
Joe Leydon of Variety was less impressed, writing of the film that it was "[s]tylistically pretentious and narratively impenetrable", with "[p]erformances [that] are amateurish at best, and threadbare production values — best typified by a scene where an earthquake is indicated with nothing more than herky-jerky camera movements — recall such campy cheapies as Manos: The Hands of Fate." He did grant that "its flashes of imaginative animation might be enough to tempt exceptionally hardy festgoers."
Douglas Perry of The Oregonian in speaking toward the animation work of the film wrote "Eric and Jeffrey Leiser's semi-animated film has buckets of ambition and, well, imagination; the surreal visuals are always interesting and at times pretty incredible. Eric Leiser's proficiency and flair in employing a variety of animation techniques is most impressive." But Perry was less impressed with the live action sequences, offering "the live-action scenes in Imagination are visually dull and amateurishly acted, weighed down by a ponderous, confusing plot concerning bizarre, quasi-spiritual visions".
DVD Talk praised the film because of how the subject matter was handled by the director, writing "[t]his is a wonderful film to WATCH, allowing yourself to simply sit back and allow the images to wash over you. Leiser may lean toward early David Lynch, especially when it comes to mixing the beautiful with the disturbing, but there are also snippets of Ken Russell and Darren Aronofsky in his style and approach." The reviewer makes note that the characters play out one-dimensionally, and are thus forgettable, writing "[o]n the human side of things, Imagination is only decent'", but countered that "thanks to the outsized originality of the man behind the camera, this is one eclectic offering that stays with you long after it's over."
DVD Verdict praised the film and made special note of its animation sequences when writing "The appropriately-titled Imagination is a fascinating watch. Leiser, who has an animation background, employs every animation style he knows throughout the film, creating one of the most visually rich movies of recent years."
Courtney Ferguson of The Hollywood Reporter considered the musical score and the animation to be "one of the...reasons to continue watching" and "interesting and surreal". However, she felt overall that "it's nearly impossible to get past Imagination's bad storyline and artsy drudgery".
- Amidi, Amid (July 4, 2007). "review: Imagination". Cartoon Brew. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
- "Imagination". Film Journal International. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
- "Imagination DVD". All Movie Guide. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
- "Animation film festival offers nearly 300 films" - Today's Zaman, December 6, 2007.
- Lovece, Frank. "review: Imagination". Film Journal International. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
- Leydon, Joe (October 24, 2007). "review: Imagination". Variety. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
- Perry, Douglas (February 28, 2008). "Movie Reviews: "Note by Note," "Delirious," "Living in Oblivion" and "Imagination"". The Oregonian. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
- Gibron, Bill (February 26, 2008). "DVD review: Imagination". DVD Talk. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
- McEntire, Mac (May 9, 2008). "DVD review: Imagination". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
- Ferguson, Courtney. "Imagination" - Film Shorts, The Portland Mercury, February 28, 2008.