Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Baron Conundrum

Another wonderful movie that challenges perceptions of reality is Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. His film is based on a collection of stories (both oral and in print by various storytellers) which themselves were derived from the outlandish tales told by 18th century Karl Friedrich Hieronymus [Freiherr von Münchhausen] who shall we say embellished the events of his life serving as a page to Anthony Ulrich II [Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg] and later in the Russian military. Besides the outrageous escapades of the Baron from the stories (such as sailing to the moon, consorting with Vulcan and riding cannonballs) Terry Gilliam’s film has some oddity of its own.

I’ve watched it quite a number of times and each time I had been determined to unravel its mystery. I’ve since resigned it to being a well-crafted and purposeful enigma. What is the dilemma that arises? It’s impossible to figure out where reality begins and ends in the movie. From the onset, one would imagine it to begin in an established reality. And it probably does – but which is it? The real world or the mind of the Baron? The fantasy of the Baron (who proclaims that he never lies) weaves in and out of alleged real events in the movie. But then, the Baron is relating his exploits to an audience from on stage, correcting the story from the way a troupe of actors had been performing his adventures. To make it even more complicated, flashbacks and past stories intermingle into the present. Also, some of the actors have dual roles (one in the supposed real world and one in the Baron’s stories) which also adds to the confusion. Sure, it’s easy to say that he just included people he met into his tale. But other factors ensue that challenge the nature of the reality of the film. "Real" becomes malleable.

If you have not seen it, give it a whirl. By the time you get to the end, you won’t know if you’re at the end of another story or the beginning of a new one or if it had all been a story or where you or the Baron stand. I admire the film for being simultaneously enchanting and infuriating. See if you can figure it out. I certainly cannot. And at this point, I never want to…

Recounting the Baron's Tales, Finally (or Again.)
Barren Munchausen??

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