“[Producer] Jeremy [Thomas] knew [raising money to make Tideland] would be difficult, particularly because the film is very, very weird.”–Terry Gilliam
DIRECTED BY: Terry Gilliam
FEATURING: Jodelle Ferland, Brendan Fletcher, Jeff Bridges
PLOT: Jeliza-Rose is a nine year old girl with an active imagination who is being raised by a pair of junkies. When her father spirits her away to a lonely, dilapidated farmhouse, then takes an extended “vacation” on heroin, Jeliza-Rose is left to her own devices. She retreats into an intricate fantasy world where her four doll’s heads are her closest companions, but reality is scarcely less bizarre than her imagination: her neighbors are a witch-like one-eyed woman with an unhealthy interest in taxidermy and a childlike mentally retarded man who also lives in his own fantasy world.
- Tideland was adapted from a critically praised novel by Mitch Cullin; ironically, this faithful movie adaptation was critically panned.
- Gilliam made Tideland while on a six month hiatus from directing the big-budget commercial fantasy, The Brothers Grimm (2005).
- Tideland was a commercial disaster, earning less than $100,000 in its initial domestic run.
- According to Gilliam, the French distributor did not want to screen this film at Cannes because there is a scene involving farting, which the French find objectionable.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Many will remember Jeliza-Rose’s doll’s heads, who make memorably fantastic appearances in an underwater house and flying about inside a man’s ribcage. But the more indelible image, because it’s repeated so many times, is the view of the broken down farmhouse in front of amber waves of grain. The look was inspired by the Andrew Wyeth paining “Christina’s World,” and, though unacknowleged, also from the 1990 film The Reflecting Skin (which had an almost identical look as well as an eerily similarly child protagonist). Gilliam often emphasizes the tall gold grass towering over tiny Jeliza-Rose’s head, as if it were surf and she was living in an undersea world. This ubiquitous aquatic imagery helps to explain the title “Tideland“.
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Gilliam has described the movie as a cross between “Alice in Wonderland” and Psycho, which sounds weird enough on its own terms. He pushes the envelope of weirdness even further with his trademark visual flair for phantasmagorical set pieces, for example, with a gloriously imaginative sequences of Jeliza-Rose falling down a rabbit hole full of tumbling syringes. But even if the audience wasn’t planted firmly inside the skull of the 9-year-old heroine, peering out onto this grotesque world through her child’s eyes, the scenario would have been weird, as the world of Tideland is peopled by grossly exaggerated lowlifes who live out their lives on the lonely fringes of plausibility.
Original trailer for Tideland
COMMENTS: Tideland is a misunderstood film, which is not automatically the same thing Continue reading 17. TIDELAND (2005)