Today I am going to talk about a band. A band that I can scarcely say has ever been surpassed in their truly unique excellence, neither in their own genre nor in the very music world itself. I am talking about the band that mixes the cinematic score with the mighty power metal like only they know how – Nightwish.
Nightwish is symphonic metal perfected. I can think of no other band that so skillfully makes me forget that I am generally not a fan of metal by blending some of its elements with those of cinematic scores and powerful orchestral classics. Even after the soaring vocals of Tarja Turunen were replaced by the ones of Anette Olzon, their remarkable style continued to make for a uniquely bombastic and exhilerating sound that wouldn’t be out of place as the soundtrack for the most enticing of dreamlike fantasy adventures. This is where Imaginaerum comes in.
Imaginaerum, while not a perfect film in terms of writing or acting, is still exactly the film Nightwish’s music should play during. Largely set within the imagination of an elderly musician in a coma (Francis-Xavier McCarthy), the movie explores a fantasy world based on repressed memories of the old man. In his own childhood form (where he’s played by Quinn Lord) he ventures through the darkest corners of his own neglectful life, escorted by a flying, talking snowman who may not actually be on his side. In this realm, the boy encounters faces his dementia has made him forget as well as some strange human-like characters and equally strange structures and landscapes.
The film partially takes place in the real world, where we learn of how the man, his name’s Thomas, has lead most of his busy life as a musician neglecting his daughter Gem (Marianne Farley) and how his relationship with his late father (Illka Villi) affected his relationship with those around him. These sad stories from his past manifest themselves within the dreamworld as various whimsical scenarios, but some scenes hint that supernatural elements might just exist outside of Thomas’ mind. One example is the Arabesque that will only spin if the right notes are played on Thomas’ piano.
The story itself does seem derivative of things we’ve seen in other films, fantasy or otherwise, it does present visuals that complement the music used. Nightwish themselves, speaking of which, actually act in the film. Tuomas Holopainen, who also helped director Stope Harju write the script, briefly plays Thomas in his adult form and the whole band is featured as different deranged entities inside the fantasy world. Their friend and colleague Troy Donockley also appears, as does Joanna Noyes as Thomas’ mistress, played by Olzon in her younger years.
As for the visuals, they might not be comprised of the most expensive state of the art CGI, but the film has such a stylized look that it doesn’t really make them look bad or out of place in any way. The imagery plays, fittingly, smilarly to the music of Nightwish. On some occasions dark and intense; on others somber and mystical. Even though it doesn’t contain any songs (that I recall) from the Tarja era, it still features one of my favourite Nightwish tracks, “The Crow, The Owl and The Dove”. I remember watching the movie the first time, hoping desperately that this song would come on. I was pretty delighted when it did.
The rest of the soundtrack consists mostly of songs from their Imaginaerum album, which I guess isn’t too surprising. What is surprising is that they didn’t use their cover of “Walking In The Air”, a song that originates in the 1982 short film The Snowman. My guess is that they didn’t want to use anything from the Tarja era as supposed to the Anette one, especially since that’s when the album on which the film’s based was actually released, but it seems like a missed oppurtunity with a film that pretty clearly features a flying magical snowman.
If you’re fan of Nightwish, I definitely think you’ll want to see this movie. If you’re not, well, what better way to be exposed to their music than to spend 85 minutes looking at the things that most likely go on within their heads when they create it?
Down below is a trailer and my rating. Enjoy the whimsy.