From its first minute onward, the film Ink takes its viewers and throws them into a surreal realm where time and space have subjective meaning. After an initial (and initially confusing) one-minute segment culminating in an unexpected car accident, the film progresses into an almost dream-like state following a workaholic father, John, and his inability to raise his young daughter, Emma, who he loves dearly but who becomes a second priority after the demands of John’s work. The story that builds from this point is complex, dramatic, often confusing but always beautiful.
In the reality of Ink there are other worlds besides our own, laying parallel to it. The spirits of the dead exist in these other realms, and cross over to impart dreams and nightmares while we sleep. The bringers of dreams are the Storytellers, who otherwise inhabit a charming natural realm of forests and fields; the bearers of nightmares are the Incubi, who reside in a grim and dreadful industrial wasteland. Against this backdrop, a strange, deformed boogeyman called Ink kidnaps the little girl Emma at the behest to the Incubi, so he can join their ranks.
What follows is an intricate storyline that weaves together three distinct plots that occur side-by-side. First, the story of John, who, obsessed with winning a major contract for his company, ignores the news that Emma is in a coma (her spirit having been taken by Ink). Second, the story of the Storytellers sent to rescue the spirit incarnation of Emma, and at the same time to prevent some catastrophe surrounding John. Third, the story of Ink as he travels through the spirit world with his prisoner and comes to grips with his origins and the evil he is serving.
Ink is, without a doubt, one of the most remarkable films of the year, or indeed the decade. The concept of a spirit world layered just on top of ours has been done numerous times in the past, but Ink‘s depiction of it is elegantly composed and without a doubt one of the best I have ever seen. It would be tempting to say that Ink is one of the most impressive low-budget films out there, but this would be misleading. In fact, Ink is one of the most impressive films of any budget that I have ever had the great privilege of enjoying. I cannot recommend it strongly enough. It is daring, clever, unique and unbelievably atmospheric. And it will make you cry, in all the best possible ways.
Those of you in the United States can find the film for free on Hulu.com (www.hulu.com/watch/116313/ink). You should also visit the film’s website. For more on Ink and independent film, see Jason Henninger’s Tor.com article.