Inkheart (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Iain Softley
Produced by Cornelia Funke
Ileen Maisel
Dylan Cuva
Sarah Wang
Iain Softley
Ute Leonhardt
Toby Emmerich
Mark Ordesky
Andrew Licht
Screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire
Story by David Lindsay-Abaire
Gary David Goldberg[1]
Based on Inkheart 
by Cornelia Funke
Starring Brendan Fraser
Eliza Bennett
Paul Bettany
Helen Mirren
Rafi Gavron
Andy Serkis
Jim Broadbent
Sienna Guillory
Music by Javier Navarrete
Cinematography Roger Pratt
Edited by Martin Walsh
New Line Cinema
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release dates
  • December 11, 2008 (2008-12-11) (Germany)
  • December 12, 2008 (2008-12-12) (United Kingdom)
  • January 23, 2009 (2009-01-23) (United States)
Running time
106 minutes[2]
Country Germany
United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $60 million[3]
Box office $62,450,361[3][4]

Inkheart is a 2008 British-American-German family adventure fantasy film directed by Iain Softley, produced by Cornelia Funke, Dylan Cuva, Sarah Wang, Ute Leonhardt, Toby Emmerich, Mark Ordesky, Ileen Maisel and Andrew Licht, written by David Lindsay-Abaire, music composed by Javier Navarrete and starring Brendan Fraser, Eliza Bennett, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren, Andy Serkis, Jim Broadbent, and Sienna Guillory. It is based on Cornelia Funke's novel of the same name. The film was released theatrically on December 12, 2008 in the UK and January 23, 2009 in the USA by New ema. Inkheart has received generally mixed reviews from critics and it earned $62,450,361[3][4] on a $60 million[3] budget.


One evening, whilst Mortimer "Mo" Folchart (Brendan Fraser) and his wife Teresa "Resa" Folchart (Sienna Guillory) are reading the fairy tale "Little Red Riding Hood" to their baby daughter Meggie, a red velvet hood appears out of nowhere. Several years later, a much older Meggie (Eliza Bennett) travels with her father Mo to visit an old book shop in Italy, unaware that he secretly looking for a copy of the book, Inkheart. Shortly after finding one, Meggie comes across a marten with horns outside the shop, who tries to bite her fingers. Suddenly, a man appears from the shadows, claiming to be an old friend while revealing the marten's name as Gwin. When Mo comes out of the book shop, he quickly recognizes the man as a person called Dustfinger, whom quickly asks to be read back into the book, only for Mo to flees with Meggie from him.

Travelling across Italy, Mo takes Meggie on a visit to Meggie's great aunt Elinor (Helen Mirren), whereupon he reveals to Meggie why he fled from Dustfinger. While she was young, Mo read to her from Inkheart, inadvertently freeing Dustfinger as a result, due to a gift he possessed from birth, that marks him as a "Silver Tongue". Unfortunately, his gift also freed the book's villain Capricorn (Andy Serkis) and several of his henchman, but at the same time, losing Resa after being forced to flee with his infant daughter. Soon, Dustfinger reappears seeking Mo, accompanied by Capricorn's minion, Basta (Jamie Foreman), who quickly captures Mo and his family and takes back Inkheart, destroying Elinor's valuable library in the process.

The four are taken to Capricorn's new castle in the real world, and imprisoned in the stables, which house various creatures from different storybooks, including the winged monkeys from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the minotaur from the story of Theseus, and a unicorn. During their imprisonment, Mo explains to Meggie and Elinor about his gift, stating that when he reads a person or an object out of a book, someone from the real world is sent into it, hence why his wife disappeared. Capricorn, interested in using his gift, forces Mo to read out items from books, causing him to get a stash of treasure from one of the stories in The Arabian Nights, while causing one of the 40 Thieves, named Farid (Rafi Gavron), to be brought out as well and forced into imprisonment. Dustfinger, who believed he could get his chance to return into the book, quickly learns Capricorn tricked him, and so prompts a quick escape using the famous tornado from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; during the escape, he opts not to tell Mo that his wife Resa is in the village, but has lost her voice.

Following their escape, Meggie offers the idea of finding the author of Inkheart, a man named Fenoglio (in honor of the Italian writer Beppe Fenoglio), who may have access to a copy of the rare-to-find book. Whilst Elinor decides to leave them to recover what is left of her book collection, the rest head for the author's location, with Dustfinger initially staying with Farid to teach him to juggle fire, yet secretly afraid of learning his fate in the book. When he does travel with Mo to find and meet with Fenoglio (Jim Broadbent), the author's ecstatic mood, upon seeing his creation live and breath before him, causes Dustfinger to discover that his efforts to save Gwin at the end of the book brings about his death. Angry, he berates the author for not being his god and that he has the freedom to chose whatever fate he wants, before eventually confessing to Mo, who Resa is in the book, that his wife was in Capricorn's castle.

Both he and Mo take Fenoglio's car, leaving Meggie behind with the author, where during the journey, they quickly discover that Farid had stowed away in the car's trunk, and take him along at his insistence. Whilst away, Meggie begins reading a number of books out loud, and discovers she is a "Silver Tongue" herself, just before Basta arrives with men to capture Mo. Upon learning that she can read things out of books, after the author notices she brought Toto from the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Basta takes her and Fenoglio back to Capricorn. Elinor, who has a change of heart and does not take the train back to her home, returns to the author's home and quickly senses trouble, pursuing the captured pair. At the castle, Capricorn reveals to Meggie his intentions of bringing the monstrous Shadow from Inkheart, revealing that, although he burned all the copies, he spared one for such a purpose, threatening to harm her mother if she fails to comply. During this time, Mo sneaks into the castle, but is captured by Capricorn's henchmen.

After escaping his cell, Mo attempts to free Meggie, Resa and Fenoglio from imprisonment, as Capricorn forces Meggie to read out the Shadow from the book. Meanwhile, Dustfinger sneaks back into the castle with Farid and decide to set it alight, after his conscience gets the better of him. The distraction this causes allows Fenoglio to give Toto a rewrite he made to help Meggie stop Capricorn's plan. The plan partly works until Capricorn gains the upper hand. Just then, Elinor arrives with the creatures Capricorn imprisoned, giving Mo the opportunity to quickly throw his daughter a pen, allowing her to write out a story on her arm to combat Capricorn's plan. Meggie quickly reads out her creation, which causes Capricorn to turn into dust, vanishes his henchmen, destroys the Shadow, and return all the read out creatures back where they belong, including Toto. In addition, she grants Fenoglio's wish, and send him into Inkheart to live in the world he created, while restoring her mother's voice, allowing her and Mo to finally reunite with her, before fleeing as the castle collapses.

Shortly afterwards, Dustfinger, having missed his chance for Meggie to read him back into his book, decides to leave, not wishing to force Mo and his family to do anything without risking their happiness. As he does, Farid catches up with insisting on travelling with him to find another reader to send him back into the copy of Inkheart he had stolen before the castle collapsed. After a moment's hesitation, Dustfinger agrees and the two start off together only to have Mo catch them up and fulfill his promise. Dustfinger is soon transported safely back into Inkheart, where he reunites with his wife Roxane at their home. In the real world, Farid quickly reveals he kept Gwin with him, thus allowing Dustfinger to avoid his fate and have control over his destiny. As Mo and his family leave with Farid, Meggie agrees to teach him how to read while Farid agrees to teach her how to use the dragon breath.



Shortly after the novel was published, author Cornelia Funke sent a copy of Inkheart along with a note to Brendan Fraser, explaining that he was her inspiration for the character of Mo.[5]

"So I get this book. It shows up in the mail. 'Dear Brendan,' it's inscribed, 'Thank you for inspiring this character.' I can feel my leg getting pulled already. 'What? Where’s Ashton Kutcher?' 'I hope that you get a chance to read this aloud to your kids one day. Best wishes, Cornelia Funke.' I had no idea from a bar of soap who she was, so I Googled her. Wow, so much work, she’s prolific. I think part of the story is that a little girl who was bilingual, I think she was a Brit but she spoke German fluently, had discovered a copy of Tintenherz which she loved and read, and wrote to either it was Cornelia or the publisher and asked why isn't this published in English? And I think Cornelia probably wanted to know the answer to that question too. So once it was, it just became a snowballing thing and then that really got her out there and led to the acclaim and popularity of her work."

It was this that motivated director Iain Softley and the casting department to consider Fraser first for the role in the film. Fraser told Softley that if it was determined that he was not right for the role, not to feel obligated to use him on the project. Softley was ultimately impressed with Fraser's performance and contracted him for the film. Public auditions were held for the role of Meggie Folchart [6] with the intention of casting an unknown actress, however the role eventually went to Eliza Bennett who had already worked extensively on television and film at the time. Funke, was quoted as saying that "we had our second screening (summer 2007), which went well, and I really loved the movie, but they are still changing things, especially at the end."[citation needed] Inkheart was filmed at Shepperton Studios near London, England and on location in Balestrino, Albenga, Entracque and Laigueglia, Italy, in 2006 and 2007.

[A] lot of the things that we tried to do are more to do with optical illusion, the sleight of hand....It feels very organic and very real, and I actually think it makes the magic more effective. I think that there is a sort of discounting that goes on in the minds of an audience when they know that it's sort of a computer world or a digital world. It's like, 'Oh, they can do anything. They can press a button for however many weeks they need at a machine.' Whereas if you actually get the sense that it's something more like the craft of illusion, I think that it's more magical, actually.

— Iain Softley, interviewed on the set[7]

The production also visited Hever Castle in Kent to shoot the exterior for Elinor's Tuscan villa setting.[8]

Visual effects[edit]

Double Negative created the menacing animated character, The Shadow, along with other creatures and visual effects for the film. The finale of the film takes place within a ruined amphitheater nestled in the Italian mountains; this is the lair of Capricorn, one of the villains Mo has accidentally "read" into the real world. The visual effects work included the digital augmentation of the bluescreen set, the billowing, pyroclastic monster, The Shadow, the surreal winged monkeys with their raven black feathers and Capricorn's final transition.[9]


  • Munich Schmankerl - Performed by The Bavarian Band And Chorus
  • My Declaration - Performed by Eliza Bennett


As with the production of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian,[citation needed] the production progressed very slowly. The American release was originally slated for Christmas 2007, but then was changed to March 19, 2008.[citation needed] Due to the writer's strike, the film was further pushed back and opened December 12, 2008 in the UK and January 23, 2009 in the US.

Home media[edit]

Inkheart was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United Kingdom on April 13, 2009.[10] It was released in the United States on June 23, 2009.


Critical response[edit]

Inkheart has received generally mixed reviews from critics. It has a 38% "Rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 140 reviews, with 53 reviews "Fresh" and 87 reviews "Rotten". It received an average score of 5.1 out of 10.[11] Their consensus is "Heavy on clichés and light on charm, this kid-lit fantasy-adventure doesn't quite get off the ground." Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter disliked the film, saying: "Whatever made the German novel Inkheart by Cornelia Funke so popular that it got translated into 37 languages is nowhere in evidence in its film version", and "The main problem is the central concept itself."[12] On the other hand, Bill Goodykoontz of The Arizona Republic enjoyed the film, saying: "Inkheart is entertaining enough, if not always easy to follow. And if it does nothing else, at least it may inspire kids to read, if for no other reason than to help make sense of it all."[13] A. O. Scott said the film "aims for a blend of whimsy and tingly suspense but botches nearly every spell it tries to cast. Its opening scenes are more confusing than intriguing, and the acceleration of the plot leads to a sense of busyness rather than suspense. A movie that can produce the image of Helen Mirren astride a unicorn has some claim on the audience’s interest, and a movie that can make that image seem perfectly uninteresting is in some serious trouble."[14]

Box office[edit]

The film grossed $2,110,000 during its opening day in 2,655 theaters. It opened at #7 at the U.S. box office with $7,725,000, with a worldwide gross of close to $13 million. It yielded just $1 million from its opening in the UK, ranking fourth, while coming in third at $1.8 million in Germany. It later came to make $5,781,992 in the UK, $10,112,691 in Germany, $1,222,364 in Australia, $1,484,027 in France, $3,289,477 in Italy, $1,815,500 in Taiwan, $2,951,290 in Spain, $2,665,476 in South Korea, $1,681,477 in Russia, $2,378,200 in Mexico, and $1,080,825 in Malaysia, plus $4,187,389 from smaller countries.[3] Inkheart made $17,303,424 in the United States, and $45,146,937 internationally, making the final worldwide gross of the film to be $62,450,361.[3] It made $8.3 million in US DVD sales during its first week.[4]


List of awards and nominations
Award Category Nominee Result
IFMCA Award Best Original Score for a Fantasy Science Fiction Film Javier Navarrete Won

Video game[edit]

On January 12, 2009, a video game based on the film was released for the Nintendo DS.[15]


  1. ^ "FAQ for Inkheart". IMDb. Retrieved March 25, 2012. 
  2. ^ "INKHEART (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. October 28, 2008. Retrieved March 4, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Inkheart (2009)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 7, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c "Movie Inkheart - Box Office Data, News, Cast Information". The Numbers. Retrieved August 7, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Inkheart - Brendan Fraser on Inkheart and Inspiring Author Cornelia Funke". June 17, 2010. Retrieved August 7, 2011. 
  6. ^'Inkheart'+film
  7. ^ Director Iain Softley and Helen Mirren Team Up to Talk About Inkheart a January 2007 article from
  8. ^ Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office Inkheart Film Focus". 
  9. ^ "Inkheart". Retrieved August 7, 2011. 
  10. ^ Inkheart DVD (2008)
  11. ^ Inkheart at Rotten Tomatoes
  12. ^ Film Review: Inkheart from The Hollywood Reporter
  13. ^ 'Inkheart' from The Arizona Republic
  14. ^ Review by A. O. Scott from The New York Times, published January 23, 2009
  15. ^ Search: (January 12, 2009). "Inkheart Release Information for DS". GameFAQs. Retrieved August 7, 2011. 

External links[edit]