In the lead up to the 7th Canadian Film Festival in Australia (August 2012), join us as we countdown the Top 100 Canadian Films of the past 30 years. We'll be posting one film a day leading up to Canada Day on July 1st 2012. Do you agree with our staff favourites? Let us know your thoughts!
#73 - Tideland
“It’s okay Daddy, now we can eat her chocolate bars!” This is said by our young heroine, Jeliza-Rose, within the first ten minutes of Tideland after she and her father, Noah, find her mother sprawled out on the bed having just died from a heroin overdose. The scene is unequivocally dark yet, without a moment of grief, Noah and Jeliza-Rose wrap her limp body up in a cocoon of bed sheets with her favourite belongings and bolt from the drug infested house, a scene you can’t help but laugh at in disbelief.
So begins Terry Gilliam’s fantastical, horrific, psychologically complex film that is not quite as charming as it is grotesque. After the death of her mother, Jeliza-Rose sets off with her equally drug-addicted father to What Rocks: a farmhouse in the heart of deserted Texas that once belonged to her grandmother but has long since been abandoned. After Jeliza innocently and obediently fulfills her daily task of injecting her father with heroin—or as he puts it, “sending him on vacation”—she passes the time by delving into her own fantasy in which she has conversations with dismembered Barbie doll heads and squirrels, her companions on her explorations around the land.
The film only gets stranger as she befriends Dell, a woman whose disconcerting black ensemble makes her look like a witch, complete with a blind eye from a bee sting, and her brother, Dickens, who seems to be an eight year old boy trapped in a man’s body. The film worms deeper into Jeliza’s psyche as she learns more about her peculiar neighbours, the Barbie heads take on voices of their own, and her father’s decomposing corpse remains sitting upright in the living room, dressed up by Jeliza in sunglasses and a blonde wig. What follows is such a tight weaving of reality and imagination that it becomes unclear what is real and what is not.
Though Jeff Bridges bares the celebrity name and is impeccable in his role of the drugged-up, drawling father, the film is carried on the shoulders of the supremely talented Jodelle Ferland who plays Jeliza with a charm that juggles her character’s innocence and child-like dependency on make-believe, with her jaded, adult-like ability to take care of herself when she becomes completely neglected.
The extreme canted angles used throughout, and the irreparably dilapidated farmhouse as well as Dell’s eccentric, gothic look are indicative of Gilliam’s overtly whimsical style. The film has received considerably negative critical reception for its bizarre nature and eccentricity, but if you give in to this strangeness and join Jeliza in the imaginary world she’s created, it’s like watching a much darker, twisted version of Alice in Wonderland.
David Cronenberg sums it up best as “a poetic horror film.” I think Tideland may be well on its way to becoming a cult favourite.
"Terry Gilliam has again stretched his craft to fashion a work of tragedy-tinged fantasy that uses the full range of dark movie making tools to great effect." (Urban Cinefile)
To see the other films in the countdown so far, click here.