The whimsical, fantastical and surreal tale of Mood Indigo left me with one conclusion–someone was on a cocktail of drugs when they crafted this alternate reality together. But that’s what makes Mood Indigo a visual feast to experience on screen from the pages of the “unfilmable” novel it’s based upon.
Writer/Director Michel Gondry’s Mood Indigo is his quirkiest film to date and certainly his most outlandish film to digest. Gondry’s diverse resume includes the much lauded indie drama Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind along with The Science of Sleep and the less impressive The Green Hornet. The film is based on the famous French novel L’ecume des jours — a commonly read novel by teenagers in France and considered a masterpiece in French culture.
Mood Indigo follows the love story of Colin (Romain Duris) on a quest to find a cure for his wife Chloe (Audrey Tautou) who has fallen ill to an unusual condition caused by a water lily growing in her lungs.
The film is filled with more colors and contraptions than our modern minds can handle; it’s a hyperactive world with the most unusual inventions yet is incapable of curing the doomed fate of Chloe and Colin whose colorfully painted world transitions to abysmal black and white as the story progresses. The love and deterioration of the couple is reflective in the world around them as things fall apart.
“Well, it’s a love story with the girl who gets a sickness, and the sickness is illustrated by a flower that grows in her lung, and it’s a very dark matter but it’s illustrated with vivid poetry in a way. A thing that I really like is that all the objects of the house are sort of … she’s scared things are changing and everything is shrinking as the sickness takes over. That was something that really struck my imagination reading the book. It’s very challenging to illustrate it visually. Most directors will say, ‘Oh, you can’t illustrate that. It’s an abstract image.’ But I really wanted to be sort of literal about it. So we built an apartment that was shrinking little by little.” Director Michael Gondry via Vulture.com
Despite the film being wildly considered a visually impossible translation from page to screen, Gondry’s illustrative world came to life for me. Where the film seems to teeter off is with the characters who tend to fall flat in their development. Gondry has focused so precisely on creating a artful masterpiece that the characters become more of a backdrop than the soul of the story.
“If Mood Indigo is lacking in emotional complexity to match its visual complexity, well, that can be overlooked up to a point. The surface charms of Gondry’s fantasia are considerable, and you have to tip your hat to the sheer volume of inspiration on display. There is scarcely a shot without several layers of visual effects, most of it wildly imaginative. What can’t be so easily overlooked, and what keeps the film grounded as it struggles mightily to take flight, is Gondry’s failure to find any resonance in the imagery. Creativity shoots off in every direction to little effect and preciously crafted bric-a-brac piles up without accumulating much meaning. Compare that to, say, Wes Anderson’s recent Grand Budapest Hotel, a similar explosion of eccentric detail, but a ruthlessly disciplined one, which pulls its wealth of visual invention together into a single unified vision. The characters are paper thin, and the actors are stranded with little to do but grin in the happy moments and frown in the sad ones. Scenes run together with all the weight of colliding soap bubbles.” Michael C. via The Film Experience
Regardless of critics being on the fence with this one, I recommend it for it’s colorful visuals drenched in a drug-induced fantasy world. While I thought the love story wouldn’t resonate with me in the end, it left a greater impact than I anticipated. I wouldn’t hold this film next to the great Eternal Sunshine, but I can give the film credit for it’s ambitious attempt at creating a world deemed unimaginable on screen.