I had heard about Ink for a long time now from our good friends over at FirstShowing.net. Ink is a wonderfully inventive & imaginative film that was made for surprisingly little money but to overwhelming positive praise. Now, I can’t say that I wasn’t a little skeptical after seeing the trailer, but as per my experience, a film with a low (or no) budget usually fails due to the financial limitations. That said, I don’t know how Double Edge Films was able to create something so grand out of something so seemingly diminutive….but they did, in spades.
INK follows the story of a character, of the same name, caught between two forces that exist as people sleep who battle for their souls. The “Storytellers” give people hope through good dreams and save their souls, and the “Incubi” who inflict desperation through nightmares, seek to steal people’s souls. Ink is on a quest is to deliver the soul of a little girl, Emma, to the Incubi in hopes of becoming one of them. More or less a lost soul himself, he is a mercenary and is looking for a way to better himself. But the path he has chosen (should he succeed) will forever turn him into the unfeeling, nightmare giving Incubi.
Now despite such a positive underground buzz and the fact that I really did like this movie, I can’t say this film is perfect. I want to state right off the bat that I don’t fault the “indie feel” and budget for what I felt was lacking in this film. Ink seemed to be missing some important or directional dialogue and doing so for some parts, made this film feel more like you were watching a music video, or (assuming anyone reading this has been to Japan) better a karaoke video. On the other hand because of that lack, I found the movie succeeding in ways I never expected. Maybe that was the intent, but telling parts of this story through visuals/musical sequences worked better than using heavy dialogue and exposition. The writing was mostly good and this film’s entire concept and premise was like something out of a Jim Henson/Guillermo Det Toro picture and I found it just fun to watch.
From the opening sequence (something you’ll swear is impressive for a low budget film) I was sucked into this captivating world and was so intrigued by this new take on a “good vs. evil” story. From there, the film’s attempts at developing the story and introducing characters (for me) got a little hard to follow maybe shooting over my head. I feel it suffered from a lack of even a little bit of back story (or any info actually) on why these characters were charged with protecting/saving Emma beyond simple concept. The main characters just seemed to show up, then all of a sudden everybody was on their journey. Not even a little “Fellowship of the Rings” exposition? Oh well, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment.
In a story where it benefited having interesting and almost “Through the Looking-Glass” type characters, the abundance of minute characters didn’t aid in the mystique because their minimal presence should have warranted more explanation/purpose and exposition. Call me a dense for favoring more Hollywood type stories where I get things spelled out for me, but I was hoping for more of a reason and how things (like the code Ink was gathering) would come together…but again maybe that was how they wanted to achieve mystery, or they just didn’t have the budget to flesh everything out. Also, I really didn’t like the ‘Pathfinder’ but maybe that’s just me. He was the one low point in the story and I just never liked him. Maybe it was his dialogue or delivery but something just felt off and I didn’t see a need for him.
Going back to the musical sequences bit I mentioned above, I absolutely loved the music in this film. It was so simple and yet just as moving as any large orchestral score. Telling the story through music was an incredible strong point and I found it refreshing as it asked the viewer to almost weaver their own story through interpretation and that was actually quite innovative. Other films seem to search too hard for things to say that most dialogue sounds cliched, forced and stretched. I would liken this film to the Russian Night Watch or even the Japanese Casshern, in their similar styles and how very much was achieved with what seemed like very little. Also, in all 3 films, the pay off at the end was very much worth it.
Having, what I consider, a non-linear storyline was a great attempt to give the viewer a bit of misdirection so that the ending of the film would be more impacting. I felt the movie was layered well, gave some great “ah-ha” moments and just makes you feel good when all is said and done. The ending was just fantastic and this film, in one word, is astounding. Despite anything I found problematic/lacking in this film, I still really enjoyed it. I wonder what could be done had this film been given the treatment of a Hollywood budget. One can not choose but wonder, but in the world of Ink, what I got were those essential elements that dreams are made of: mystery, intrigue, good vs. evil and for a small movie to feel this big, the final product is all I could ever want. Truly great job all around.
G-S-T Ruling – 3.5/5
G-S-T Seal of Approval: GRANTED