“Ink” is a fantasy film made in 2009. It’s an independent production made on a low budget, and it contains no familiar actors. It is surprisingly good.

It involves supernatural figures who give people good dreams or nightmares. The givers of good dreams are called Storytellers, while the givers of nightmares are Incubi. A mysterious character known as Ink, steals the soul of a little girl, hoping to buy his way into the ranks of the Incubi. The Storytellers then try to save the girl.

On the face of it, this plot doesn’t sound like it is anything very different. It’s a good versus evil story, with the usual themes of redemption, innocence, and so on.  However, I feel it lifts above it’s standard fairy-tale plot with small details of interest. I very much enjoyed the idea of the Storytellers and the Incubi, entering our minds and steering our thoughts towards happiness or sadness. The appearance of the Incubi, hiding their faces behind tv screens projecting grinning faces, indicating falsity, rather than their true faces. When the screen masks come off they wear glasses with light glowing from them, giving them an appearance that lacks personality. So, the screen projections are all they’ve got to show. They have no true faces.

The main characters are the girl, Emma, and her father, John. Emma in the real world is comatose and has been taken to hospital, while in the dream world she is being dragged about by Ink. One Storyteller, Liev, catches up with Ink, and after fighting him, surrenders to him to help the little girl. The other Storytellers and the Incubi are not particularly well-developed characters, but I don’t really feel that this is important, as the focus is on Emma, John, and Ink.  John, for all his trappings of success, has lost his wife to death and then his daughter to the custody of her grandparents. He hardens himself against any attempt to reach him with thoughts of love and kindness. He throws himself into the pursuit of money and power. He is using this to shore up his deep insecurities about himself and his actions. We see this in his own dreams and thoughts, such as memories of being bullied as a child and imagining that his staff are all against him. His money and success will never be enough because inside he feels like a failure. The Pathfinder, who is helping the Storytellers rescue Emma, says John thinks he is God. John holds onto his pride to hide from the shame that is always just below the surface.

His daughter has a beautiful and complex imagination, playing with her toys having adventures, and building defences against monsters. When Liev tells her she is a lioness, her sceptical face is priceless, but she tries roaring at people, first timidly, and then with increasing confidence. She’s also surprisingly mature for such a little girl. In the scene where she persuades a reluctant John to play with her, she is very persistent in the face of his discomfort. Tellingly, she realises something he hasn’t realised himself, that it is his insecurity about his ability to play with her, rather than lack of interest, that is stopping him. She says, ‘you can do it’. I found her a strong, believable, and likeable character.

Lighting and colour are crucial to this film to gauge its true meaning. Dreams and memories are fuzzy, while reality is clear. Good dreams, as well as the Storytellers’ domain (the wood), are tinted gold. Nightmares are tinted green. When the Storytellers look at the real world the colours are quite muted, and when the Incubi are present the picture becomes black and white, like their screen masks. The green of nightmares also features in John’s waking memories, and we learn that his past fills him with shame and guilt. An incubus is following him while awake, and we see the Incubi shadow hovering over him. When he tells his father-in-law that he won’t visit his daughter in hospital because he’s no longer her father, light fades from this scene as the argument progresses, as if John is plunging into darkness with his decision. When John is in his element, at his workplace and directing his staff, the light is always brighter around him, and in some scenes, he is in the spotlight that he craves. When Ink visits the drifters, the lighting in the home of the woman is sepia tinted, indicating her being locked in her past and unable to see past her own vanity. The changes in colour and light throughout the film illustrate the mood beautifully and are a clear guide to what is going on in each scene.

“Ink” is a beautiful fairy-tale of colour and light, with a strong theme of redemption. I strongly recommend this.

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