Anglophile Terry Gilliam claims that his inner child is a little girl. I have no doubt of this as his most recent film Tideland (2005) is his masterpiece. This dark film follows a young girl who has lost her parents due to drug overdoses. Her father even has her help shoot up so that he can go on “vacation.” The little girl is more than happy to oblige. Eventually the little girl becomes stranded at her Grandmother’s abandoned country house.
A mentally retarded young man by the name of Dickens eventually befriends the little girl. For me his character was quite disturbing. As a child I was always scared yet fascinated by mentally retarded children. In fact, they became sort of an obsession for me. Dickens has that same effect on me in Tideland. Terry Gilliam truly was able to capture the innocence of a child in a dark and twisted world. The little girl sees strange thing after strange thing yet is able to maintain her personhood.
The little girl’s best friends are the doll heads that she wears on her fingers. Her interaction between the heads can be quite revealing to the strange mind of a little girl. The actress who played the little girl (Jodelle Ferland) gave an amazing performance. She must have great parents. It will be interesting to see what roles she does in twenty years from now.
Terry Gilliam has always been a director that is more obsessed with visuals and aesthetics than any other aspect of filmmaking. Tideland is no different however it is more successful in its attempts than any of Gilliam’s other films. The surreal visuals of the film work hand and hand with its child perspective. Most of Gilliam’s suffer from his utilization of fisheye lens and odd shots. One can’t get past the image to enjoy the film. Tideland finally does what Gilliam set out to do right.
Tideland is a film that is obviously both love and hated. I plan to revisit it every so often. Whether you like it or not, it’s a new and different experience. Something you have to invest yourself in. I doubt Terry Gilliam will ever make a film to top it. Making films about little girls at age sixty can’t be topped.