Every pocket of culture is set for adaptation. You cannot escape it. Now a fact of life, a fundamental way of parsing information to an always-online audience. Respect the desire to bottle up every remnant of history, to milk it of its magic and to try and scatter it across the screen. This is not a new development, but a streamlined effort which sees Colour Me Kubrick not as a rarity, but a mainstay in the cultural fields in the current cultural fields, is a bit of a shock. Had John Malkovich portrayed that affable swindler who pretended to be a legendary film director now, he’d find himself on streaming platforms, not DVD rarities. Such is time and placement, and Daliland finds itself in this arena.
Ben Kingsley has done better works than this, but the oddities contained within Daliland are a fascinating experience. Elderly tenderness is found deep within this feature, to the point of it being the overwhelming and often muddled core. It is reason enough for an art gallery understudy, James Linton (Christopher Briney) to head here, wander there and help out the ageing artist. Whatever, it feels hard to connect with this Mary Harron film, whose direction is sporadic in the sense of simplicity. It has the overly lit and colourful nature all these lower-budget biopics have. Daliland is no exception to the many rules which cater to this side of the oddball realities never quite brought to the screen. Steve Harley’s tracks which were not around at the time of Dali’s life are one of many fascinating mood-ruining moments.
Struggling to mark any sense of pace is the real detractor for Daliland. Nothing within it strikes as interesting, there is no hook to the appeal and allure of a great and interesting life. Instead, spotty cuts and stock music flow through overblown decorations, and vaguely recognisable faces like Rupert Graves are mere meat in the room for Harron’s waning work. Strange fixations on Dali’s penis soon follow and eventually, the usual run of sex, power and madness in the final years of an artist flow through. It may be true, it may be false, but regardless of what it is or does, it is not interesting. Harron fails to make a stand on these wilder moments and instead, it is just a series of shuffling pieces and characters from place to place, hoping the wear and tear is enough to showcase their difficulties.
Rock tracks are used as filler, and the more you hear, the more you realise where the budget ended up. Even the best of soundtracks cannot aid the stop-and-start momentum Daliland holds. Never a presence of story, just a spinning variation of moments which feel disconnected despite taking place in stride with one another. Dali is shown as a fascinating creature of a dated realm and that much is, probably, true. Tender age is delicate and seemingly easy to show on camera now when all the greats are at the age to show it off. Ezra Miller’s almost empty and expressionless role as the young Dali offers even less, the necessity of his role completely lifeless and weighing down the work elsewhere. Time waits for no man though it could have waited until there was more interest in Dali, a fascinating figure whose story is done as much justice as expected for the lack of interest shown in him in the modern world.