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Harju, Stöbe (Dir.)
Imaginaerum (DVD)
August 2015
Released: 2015, Solar Films, Caramel Films
Rating: 4.0/5
Reviewer: JP

What a long wait this has been. Finally, after three years after it’s initial release, the Nightwish full-length feature film IMAGINAERUM has been released in North America. Previously this was only available in a very expensive deluxe tin box format in Europe, not compatible with North American systems. It has been very recently been issued on a Blu-Ray / DVD combo.

Filmed in Montreal, Quebec this joint Canadian-Finnish fantasy film was written by Tuomas Holopainen of Nightwish. The film ties in with the IMAGINAERUM CD from late 2011 and eventually the band issued the soundtrack on CD as IMAGINAERUM-THE SCORE a year later in 2012. The soundtrack is wonderful, if you like Nightwish naturally, and consists of orchestral reinterpretations of the IMAGINAERUM album.

The movie is short at about 81 minutes but that is more than adequate to tell the simple story. There is a generous bonus feature about the making of the film as well. The band themselves have a couple of cameos and members have brief roles throughout the movie. It is not surprising that IMAGINAERUM looks like a long Nightwish music video because it was co-written and directed by Stobe Harju the video director worked had worked previously with the band on some of their videos. This is not a complaint in my mind but some film purists may see this as a drawback.

The plot is much like a short-story that plays out with the space of about 24 hours. An elderly composer of a famous band slips into a coma and his estranged daughter is summoned to his death-bed. She is bitter about how he treated her as he leads the wild life of a traveling musician. She meets with another of her fathers band-mates, a woman, who the daughter for years had blamed for taking her father away. The band-mate explains that her father loved her very much and they talk about the realities of his past. Meanwhile, inside the mind of the composer, while in a coma, a psychic battle rages with his young self, his demons and temptations as he struggles to decide to escape forever into a dark fantasy world or to come back to the light. It is a little more in-depth than that but I don’t want to ruin it for you.

The visuals are stunning. This is an amazing work very reminiscent of something by Tim Burton (Nightmare Before Christmas), Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), Terry Gilliam (Time Bandits), Disney’s Fantasia or The Polar Express or any other number of dark fantasy works. The special effects create an incredible world of shifting perspectives and ages with bizarre characters all loaded with symbolic references. It really is like watching the most kick-ass Nightwish video you ever saw.

I really enjoy dark horror / fantasy films or otherworldly realms so this played right to my preferences. The pace was brisk and there were lots of little Nightwish references as well. The cameos of the band were fun but certainly not overdone as they didn’t overstay their welcome in their own movie, which saved it from being a Nightwish commercial. As a stand-alone film for someone who was not familiar with the band it is a great fantasy film and for Nightwish fans it is a superb merging of the visual and musical visions of Tuomas Holopainen into a cohesive whole.
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