Innovation is not just necessary for film, but expected. When we wish to explore the varied opportunities cinema can provide, we turn to the creative many out there. Each will hit the right notes that resonate with us and us alone. The Fabulous Baron Munchausen does just that, for me, at least. There is something so broad yet so personal within this piece from Karel Zeman. Articulating the adventures of a time, space and essential, mind-bending traveller, this piece of expressive German ingenuity outlined in establishing men who will stop at nothing to set the world right, in their own strangely comedic way.
Miloš Kopecký brings life to the titular Baron, whose experiences and travels across the world and beyond find him in titillating encounters with a variety of subjects. Extravagance bleeds from the fabric of this feature, with its colour palate signifying different locations, its soundtrack enabling new languages and brief spells of humour. Much of the humour comes from the timely innovations of the set design and animation. Spears filter through the chair of a king when his carpet is stepped on. A cannon of comically oversized proportions make an entrance soon after, and the reactions of Kopecký and company make it work so well. They set out with big intentions in their heart and minds, but these moments are brought to life with small flourishes and detail beyond what should be expected of an adventure-style piece.
Those little touches throughout make The Fabulous Baron Munchausen an extraordinary experience. Attention to detail is one thing, but Zeman brings with him a clear vision and expresses it with extravagance befitting of these adventures. Wine glasses clink and echo around the moon. Animation is interlaced between scenes, and their presentation and blend with the real world elicit the foundation of Monty Python and the work of Terry Gilliam. It is no wonder he developed the project himself decades later. It certainly has a layer of his charms present within it, from the sword-wielding fights to the chess game novelties that preceded it. Layer upon layer of differentiating charms, a cluster of ambitious moments and moods that somehow work together with fascinating, intriguing results.
An extravagance and ambitious need to innovate can be found within The Fabulous Baron Munchausen, whose leading man is as eponymously fabulous as the world he finds himself in. Zeman crafts a charming experience, filled with articulate visuals and a decisive attitude toward what is present and why. There is a delightful novelty to the interspersed moments of madness. A poet on the moon has beaten the mighty space explorers accidentally. The stunned look on the face of the “actual Moonman” is not one of wonder and praise for these fellow travellers of the stars, but one of disgust and rage. He was meant to be the first man to the moon but has been bested by the Baron and his collection of larger-than-life friends. Conducted through a beautiful scope of colours and camerawork, The Fabulous Baron Munchausen comes across as fabulous indeed.