The Brothers Grimm

Movie Information

The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Brothers Grimm at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 23, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community, 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville. (From Asheville, take I-26 to U.S. 64 West, turn right at the third light onto Thompson Street. Follow to the Lake Point Landing entrance and park in the lot on the left.)
Genre: Horror/Comedy/Fantasy
Director: Terry Gilliam
Starring: Matt Damon, Heath Ledger, Lena Headey, Jonathan Pryce, Peter Stormare
Rated: PG-13

When I first reviewed The Brothers Grimm in 2005, I found myself defending the film against people who dislike any but the most straightforward narratives, fans of Terry Gilliam and even a few of my friends (you know who you are). After watching it again for this review, I realized I’d do it all over again—except, of course, no one’s attacking it now. I have no idea if it’s been generally reevaluated by Gilliamphiles and afforded a higher place in Terrydom, but it ought be. It ought to be for sheer visual beauty alone—the movie looks like a Pre-Raphaelite painting come to life (it deliberately evokes Millais’ Ophelia at one point). The problem for the Gilliam contingent really comes down to the idea that The Brothers Grimm is too “normal,” while for many others, it’s too “weird.” All I can say is that I wish more mainstream films were “normal” like this rich blend of history, fantasy, horror, comedy and even political allegory.

The film tells a wildly fantasticated story that purports to be about the famous brothers and the origins of their collected fairy tales. It’s history as fantasy—a fairy tale about the creation of fairy tales—and that seems a pretty clever approach to the inherently uncinematic prospect of a biopic on writers. (Face it, writing isn’t very lively from the outside.) The film is built around a central story that allows Gilliam to incorporate bits and pieces of a number of fairy tales into its framework, though this is done in a way that isn’t as cute as that probably sounds. Indeed, one of the joys of The Brothers Grimm lies in its portrayal of the fairy tales as very dark. It returns the stories to their pre-sanitized origins. There is true horror here and some distinctly nightmarish visions. If you’ve never seen it, give it a shot. If you saw it and dismissed it, maybe a second look is in order.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

2 thoughts on “The Brothers Grimm

  1. Hmmm. 4 1/2 stars might be a big high.

    If I remember reading correctly, Gilliam gave up on this project once he found out he had funding for TIDELAND, and walked away from the editing process. If that is true, then it shows.

  2. Ken Hanke

    Doesn’t it show whether it’s true or not?

    In any case, I’ll stick by my 4 1/2. I really like this movie, but it’s worth remembering that I’m not a big Gilliam admirer. In fact, two of his films I positively loathe, so from a Gilliam standpoint I am perhaps lacking.

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