The film Imaginaerum is like opening the doors of perception and entering a music video by Finnish metal band, Nightwish. The movie is based on their seventh studio album and concept record. Imaginaerum seems to have the same trappings as most rock operas once they are adapted for the screen. That is that while the visuals and music are superb the plot is too flimsy to sustain an entire full length feature.
The film is the feature debut of Stobe Harju, a music video director by trade. The original plan that he and Nightwish had were to create music videos for every song from the album. But as they started doing this a story emerged and that is the one about Tom Whitman (Francis X. McCarthy), a 70-year old composer who is succumbing to dementia at a rapid rate after he slips into a coma.
The backdrop for the film is gothic and bleak with the visuals inspired by both Tim Burton and Salvador Dali. The plot jumps around from Whitman’s present predicament where he is estranged from his daughter, Gem (Marianne Farley). She is also the person that must decide whether to resuscitate her father or not. The other story is a more ambitious one where a 10-year-old Tom Whitman (Quinn Lord) befriends a snowman and relives a bunch of his lost memories. The premise seems interesting enough but the execution fails because things are far too hyper, cryptic and confusing for the viewer to follow and some of the performances are sub-par.
Nightwish contribute a couple of songs to this experimental film and also put in two cameos. The story itself is an unlikely family drama but it suffers from being too heavy-handed when it comes to symbolism. It also fails to spend enough time sketching out and developing some of the characters. This is a squandered opportunity.
Imaginaerum is an ambitious film that ultimately tries too hard. Despite it being dark, mysterious and utterly original, its theatrical style and overly-artistic execution craft something with lots of beauty but very little substance. This dreamy film may be adored by Nightwish fans but other viewers may find the jumbled and messy plot a rather hard act to swallow.
Review Score: ONE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Imaginaerum is now available on DVD and Blu-ray through Eagle Entertainment.