Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Case Study No. 0223: The Librarian (MirrorMask)

the library
a scene from the movie "Mirror Mask",
Tags: ani
Added: 4 years ago
From: alhajoos
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[Helena and Valentine are making their way towards the Library]
VALENTINE: Where are we going, again?
HELENA: Well, we need to find where the charm might be. Where do you go for information?
VALENTINE: Oh, the library, of course. It's full of books and ... Predominantly books.
[they walk up to the front desk, where a strange humanoid creature is jotting down notes on a scroll]
HELENA: Excuse me.
HELENA: [whispers] Excu--
[the Librarian points to a large sign which reads "Silence"]
HELENA: Excuse me, we're looking for "a really useful book" ...
LIBRARIAN: Information, paperbacks. Top floor ... You'll need a net.
[two strange half-man half-bird creatures wearing red robes appear and give each of them a net, as they make their way towards the stairs]
HELENA: That princess that they were talking about. Did you ever meet her?
VALENTINE: To be honest, all you people look alike to me. Without proper faces, you could be anybody.
HELENA: Hang on! I've got a proper face. Can you do this?
[she crosses her eyes]
VALENTINE: That's disgusting!
[climbing the stairs, they wind up in a large room filled with bookshelves, so Helena reaches for "The Complete History of Everything" on the shelf ... but that causes all of the books to suddenly jump out and fly around her]
HELENA: Valentine, I had no idea books had such different personalities!
[she catches the book with her net, but it flies out of her hands when she tries to read it, so the Librarian (who suddenly appears behind them) grabs it out of the air, opens it up and begins reading]
LIBRARIAN: Ahem ... "In the beginning, she found herself in a new and empty space. And all was white, and the corners were a bit flaky, and the carpet was a bit manky, but it was a good space."
[all of the books suddenly position themselves against the wall, to act as a sort of projection screen, as a cartoon of a little girl begins playing]
LIBRARIAN: "And she sat in the center and saw a clean white sheet of void. She held the charm to her face. And reflected in the charm was a city of lost horizons, and tall and towering stories. And just as it had been reflected in the charm, so it appeared in the void. And when there was no more room, she turned it over and continued on the other side. And so the void was filled from corner to corner on both sides. A city of front and back. A city of light and shadow. Then she rested on her bed and dreamed of her creation, and the lives that inhabited it. And in the days that followed, there were other voids and other lights and other shadows. The charm, she placed beneath the sign of the queen, to show the city that she knew it would never be finished, because the city was her life and her dream, and it would live forever."
[the cartoon ends, and the books suddenly reshelve themselves]
HELENA: Thank you, I think. I'm not quite sure I understood it all.
LIBRARIAN: Yeah, well, who does? I certainly don't.
[he notices that a little red book has perched itself on top of Helena's head]
LIBRARIAN: Hello, I think you've made a friend!
[she takes the book and looks at the cover]
HELENA: Ah, "A Really Useful Book" ...
[she opens it to the first page]
HELENA: "Remember what your mother said."
[she turns the page]
HELENA: "Why don't you look out the window?"
VALENTINE: Really useful? Utter piffle. Sounds perfectly useless to me.
[she thinks about part of the Librarian's story]
HELENA: "Placed it beneath the sign of the queen" ...
VALENTINE: It's all rubbish, isn't it? Doesn't mean anything.
[she looks out the window]
HELENA: The Queen's sign ... The Queen's sign is the sun. It was all over her bedroom.
[she points out the window]
HELENA: And look, at the end of that little street! That's where we need to go!
[she looks at the book]
HELENA: You really are a useful book, aren't you?
[it flutters its pages in her hands, and she laughs]
LIBRARIAN: Eh, you'd better take the book with you. If you leave it behind, it'll just depress the rest of them. And before you know it, they'll start molting. Pages everywhere!
HELENA: That's really kind of you. Thank you so much.
LIBRARIAN: Oh, shush. Stop it ...
VALENTINE: So, we find this thing quickly, save the world, they give us the contents of the treasury, and we can be out of the city by tomorrow!




McKean, Dave (Director). MirrorMask. United States: Jim Henson Productions, 2005.

Starring: Stephen Fry (voice of Librarian); Stephanie Leonides (Helena); Jason Barry (Valentine)

This CGI animation with live action is difficult to describe, a film of equal parts Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and LSD, and there is nothing cartoon-y or Muppet-y about it despite its being a Jim Henson production. A teenaged girl (circus juggler and artist) sleeps and dreams while her mother undergoes surgery. Remorse and guilt make her dreams dark, ugly and disturbing as her drawings come to life in hideous and frightening ways. Early on we learn that books in this strange dream-land will fly you to the city library like a magic carpet if you yell at one, telling it how much you don't like it ("Horribly offensive, badly constructed book!" Valentine shouts; "... with a soppy ending that I didn't believe in for one minute!" Helena reluctantly shouts, as she likes books). The library scene is short and unlike any you've ever seen before onscreen. The librarian (voice of Stephen Fry) is a looming creature composed of a stack of books and twists of metal with shoulders garbed in priestly fashion, with wedges forming a face and a real man's lips superimposed where a mouth would be (a creepy effect). The girl, Helena (Stephanie Leonides), and her sidekick Valentine (Jason Barry), are immediately shushed (the librarian points to a huge carved sign reading SILENCE) but they persevere and ask for a "really useful book." They are directed upstairs but first are given large butterfly nets. A circular staircase leads up to the sky and into an eyeball-shaped room where thousands of books line high walls. Helena scans the titles but when she goes to pluck one, bunches of books burst into flight around her, circling her like birds while she swipes at them with the net. The one book she snags flies out of her hands. The librarian appears and tells them a story (which rather explains what the film is about ... maybe), during which a small red book perches on Helena's head. The title is A Very Useful Book and the librarian gives it to her since to put it back on the shelf would just depress the other books "and before you know it they'll start molting, pages everywhere." Whenever Helena opens the book, a page puts forth a line of advice that fits whatever situation the two travelers find themselves in as they search for the "mirrormask." Several times the book does prove useful. At one point its pages turn into sticky food to distract a group of odd cat-like beasts that impede their progress. Eventually only one page remains with a final line of advice. The cinema has its share of strange and fascinating libraries, e.g. What Dreams May Come and Rollerball, but the dream library in MirrorMask tops them all. Do not watch this film before bedtime (the animation is extraordinarily disturbing), and I wouldn't recommend it for children under 40.

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