Thursday, June 7

Retro Film Review: Land of Faraway

For not much reason, I began remembering recently this movie that I watched years ago when I was a kid. It was entitled Land of Faraway. Back then, DVDs (and VCDs/CDs, even) were nowhere around, and movies were available on betamax tapes for rent in shops or neighborhood merchants. I wasn't expecting much from the tape- I mean, the title was kinda blah- but the movie got me interested soon after I plucked it into the player.
Land of Faraway, AKA Mio in the Land of Faraway, is a European-produced storybook fantasy, based on a novel. It is all about the adventures of a young boy named Bosse, a seemingly ordinary kid living with his adoptive parents in a dreary home. One day, in a fit of anger, his surrogate parent remarks at how his father was a good-for-nothing drunk... something that Bosse vehemently objects to, despite him not really knowing his real dad.

Then, one day, while walking along, Bosse encounters, of all things, a floating, giant bearded and disembodied head (!) which informs him that he is going home to his true home, to his true father, in the Land of Faraway. So, faster than you can say 'Faraway', Bosse hangs onto the long beard and is whisked off to a magical land. There, he soon meets another boy, Jum-Jum, who becomes his best friend, and of course, his father, the King of Faraway. He also finds out that his real name isn't Bosse, but Mio. How's that for a complete change?

Now, you'd think that Bosse/Mio would be totally happy after that... but then, that would make for a pretty boring story. Soon after arriving in Faraway, Mio notices with a bit of alarm the size and massiveness of Faraway's castle gate. As Jum-Jum explains, it's needed so the King can sleep at night. Faraway is, unfortunately, a kingdom under siege, from an EVIL Knight named Kato. This blackguard has kidnapped many of Faraway's children, and is holding them captive in his castle. Eventually, Mio takes it upon himself to gather the courage (and the enchanted items) needed to free the captive children, confront Kato and defeat the stone-hearted knave once and for all.

As fantasy films go, Land of Faraway isn't too high on the whimsy- it's pretty straight and matter-of-factly told, a bit heavy-handedly at that. Since it's based on a novel, there's quite a bit of narration with lines that sound straight from the book. The way Mio and Jum-Jum go about defeating Kato also plays like everything's preordained, with an enchanted item matching every situation down to an invisible cloak for thwarting seven-times-seventy guards, and a magical sword for plunging into Kato's stone heart. The production is no LOTR, either, but at the time, it didn't really matter.

These days, what's really surprising for me aside from my remembering this film, are the names of the actors in the film which I never really remembered. Well, Kato the evil Knight was played by none other than Christopher Lee. Meanwhile, Mio's sidekick Jum-Jum was performed by... The Batman himself, Christian Bale. Wild, man.

The Land of Faraway wasn't really a great fantasy film, but for some reason I remember it to this day. I guess it was clever in some ways, magical in some others, with enchantment and a dreamy feeling making up for less-than-spectacular production/special effects and a European dub. It's one of the films that make up my childhood, so at the very least, it's something that I am glad that I was able to experience. Far better than the original Critters, I'd say. Heh.

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