I must admit that I was hard pressed to find any fault with The Adventures of Baron Munchausen simply because the first time I watched it I was transfixed by familiar fanatical scenes that I had experienced years before. That honeymoon ended when I accidentally recognized the specific lighting and camera angles of one of my favorite scenes and I was suddenly in critique mode. "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" follows an old fool dressed as the noble fairytale adventurer himself, who tries to crash a local theater's latest production -The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. We, as the viewers, are along for the ride through a giant fish's stomach, a fiery volcano, and at the bitter end of jealousy experienced by the many men whose and lovers are captivated by the Baron's charm. That being said, jealousy as a theme, special effects, and an interesting mis-en-scene choice are this movies strong points.
The first time we see the Baron, played by John Neville, he is an old, heavily wrinkled man but still wearing a tattered, long, red and gold coat. At this point he is outraged. Outraged by the Turks currently storming the city's gates, and outraged by the mockery of his life of outstanding adventures, put together by the theater house. He asserts himself to the stage where he draws his sword and everyone begins to listen to the real story of Baron Munchausen and how he was the cause of the war. Right away we are given a hint to the film’s most interesting mis-en-scene when the theater performers stop their production and start to act out his story. The mis-en-scene being that we lose touch with reality while listening to his stories in that theater. Now, we actually see obvious props, and wigs, or gears-where-there-should-be-magic kind of things in these fabulous adventures and you are forced to wonder if you are listening and watching the story being acted out on stage or there's something amazing going on. You start to lose track, but are curious as to why the actors in the theater are the same people in the Baron's story. It's plain confusing. Still, it's meant to be. One of the main themes in this movie is improbable fantasy and if you focus on the unlikeliness of it you're going miss the magic.
The Baron doesn't flinch after coming a skin's thickness to having his head chopped off. Twice! He woos the goddess Venus away from her diamond producing god husband. His teeth sparkle and he has an endless supply of the reddest roses to give to his darlings. He is a gentleman, one that evokes deep emotions in people. This is why jealousy is a large theme in this movie. Take the King of the Moon (played by Robin Williams) as an example. He is able to detach his head and exist as two separate beings but is infuriated when his wife goes completely gaga over the Baron's flowing smoothness. He ends up locking the baron in prison where he meets his old servant, Bertol. Another example would be the God Vulcan blowing steam out of his ears when the Baron starts to dance with his wife Venus. Vulcan ends up throwing all of the Baron's friends and himself into a pool of swirling water right through to the other side of the world. It seems that the Baron's smoothness is predictable because no matter where he has gotten himself into there is no stop to the adventures and tall tales in the making.
The Baron concludes his story by telling how he saved the town from the Turks. Once the Baron had finished his story we are transported back to the theater house and the cannonballs from the Turks no longer pepper the city. Of course just what the Baron had said. Because the last part of his story told how he and his brave servants took down the massive army and saved the town. Impossible? The Baron leads a march up to the gates and demands that they be opened. They are and the Sultan's men have vanished. His story was true, but then again, could it have been?
Good and confusing is how I would describe this movie, endearingly. This movie is ahead of its time and maintains a fascinating story for adults and children. His adventures are left open to the viewer’s interpretation and the way the movie remains mysterious, almost any guess on what really happened would be quite plausible and fun. It is clear to me that this movie needs to be watched a few times to notice everything, each time is a new ride. The aspects that remain are the habits of men, the fascination with unexplainable forces, and interesting mis-en-scene that keep the viewers perplexed but also taken back.
Here's Robin Williams as the King of the Moon's head. He flies around seeking higher intelligence while his body lurks seeking more bodily requirements. The makeup and costumes are pronounced and very well done.
Here you can see one of the lesser characters wearing a wig. He is an actor, but everyone seems to wear this kind of stuff all the time. Whether the people are literally in a play or a part of the adventure stories they always seem to wear this attire.
The Baron tells of an old adventure where he wagered with the Sultan and if he failed he would let his head be cut off. That was of course in the story, but now he is seen here following through with this wager and having the Sultan in his story execute him.