Inkheart

Mo is a Silvertongue. That means when he reads aloud, characters and objects from the book appear in the real world – and sometimes people from our world disappear into the book. Mo discovers his ability when he reads several villains out of a book – and his wife vanishes.

For years Mo desperately hunts for a way to bring is wife back. But the characters from the book have other ideas. Dustfinger, a fire performer, wants to be read back into his world, while the villains are very content to stay in ours. Bent on terrorizing the world, the villains kidnap Mo and demand that he read for them. And the villains know exactly how to get Mo to bend to their will – by threatening his daughter Meggie.

Inkheart, based on Cornelia Funke’s book by the same name, is a masterful drama that captivated me with the intensity. With all the impossible situations and endearing characters, I often feared the worst would happen – even though I knew there would be a happy ending. But for all the intrigue, Inkheart still rides the line. I cannot decide whether to love it or leave it be. Here’s why.

Regarding Silvertongues

The Silvertonge ability to read characters into and out of books is an intriguing premise that provides both pros and cons. On the list of pros is the dramatic and complicated situations the ability creates. Silvertongues cannot control what will come out of a book or who will go in, making it impossible to please the bad guys without creating disaster.

High on the list of cons, however, is the magical/mystical nature of the Silvertongue ability. Silvertongues can hear books whispering to them in the silence. While they cannot control who is read in, Silvertongues can often determine what comes out of a book by choosing which passage to read. At the climax, [spoiler!] the author and a Silvertongue write and read a revised ending to the book to defeat the bad guy.

The Silvertongue ability also raises interesting questions about destiny. Dustfinger, after hearing the end of his story, hotly tells his author “You’re not my god.” Later, the author tells him “You don’t have to be selfish just because I wrote you that way!” Dustfinger’s struggles show us that we have free will and need to make the right decisions; we are not a slave to destiny, and we must take blame for our own faults. However, in other places, things happen exactly as the Silvertongue reads it. While this may be similar to our lives – where some “plot twists” are ordered by the master Author beyond our control – it raises questions about the consistency of the theme and the rules dictating the magic.

The Good

Outside of the magic, however, there is a good dose of positive subthemes. Both Mo and Dustfinger are extremely devoted to their families, giving them a strong desire to protect and restore. This sacrificial affection is wholesome and thrilling. However, the men are desperate to the point of being willing to manipulate each other in pursuit of their own goal. When both men realize that they are being driven by the same honorable motive, they keep their promises to help each other, even at the sacrifice of themselves.

Meggie’s aunt starts out as an obnoxious tagalong who is grumpy, short-tempered, and fussy. She would rather stay out of the adventure, but in time she realizes her own devotion to her families and risks all to help them.

The Bad

Unfortunately, the movie also has a significant amount of negative attributes. While most of the issues in and of themselves are minor, the combination of them might tip the scale:

  • There is a smattering of language and some level of immodesty – both cleavage and shirtless men.
  • Although Meggie cherishes her father and ultimately seems to trust him, she rebels against his wishes once or twice. She is also sometimes disrespectful – even occasionally calling him “Mo.”
  • While discussing the disappearance of Meggie’s mother, her aunt talks about how the women in their family always seem to run off on adventure (except for her). She also claims that she’s no worse for having been raised without a mother, although Mo snorts at this.
  • The other Silvertongue that appears in the story stutters. He is mocked for this disability and appears to be a bit of a weak man overall, although he ultimately fights on the good side.
  • Mo reads a thief out of Arabian Nights, who proceeds to use his ability for “good” causes without being reprimanded.
  • One of the henchmen is superstitious and carries a magical pouch. Dustfinger uses this against him by stealing the pouch and then pretending to curse him.
  • Dustfinger is able to generate fire on his hands. It is not explained whether this ability is magical or just an illusion, although he teaches another character to do it.
  • Lastly, the intensity of the film is somewhat of concern. It is a reasonably dark film, with a lot of scary images, violence, men threatening each other, and the bad guys mistreating their prisoners.

he End of it all

Overall, it is still hard for me to say where I stand with Inkheart. I cannot deny the drama, and the emphasis on family is both endearing and wholesome. But the magical nature of the Silvertongue ability is of concern, and darkness is not to be laughed at. Will the negatives tip the scale and keep the movie from finding a place on my shelf? I don’t know yet. But perhaps I shall try the original book.

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    • Cassandra Rhoden
    • March 3rd, 2012

    Very well done review.

    Personally, I did not enjoy the movie version of Inkheart. Even though the original novel is somewhat dark and contains quite a bit of magic as well, I enjoyed it far more than its film counterpart. Maybe something about seeing the magic “come to life” was more disturbing to me. Additionally, I felt like the film lacked a lot in the character development that was present in the book and the story in the movie was much more shallow.

    While I would recommend the book to mature and discerning readers for its engaging story-telling and unique plot, I would hesitate before recommending the film version to anyone.

    God Bless!

    • Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment! I appreciate your sharing your opinion of the book; I think I shall try it.

    • Kaitlyn E.
    • March 19th, 2012

    This has always been on my to-read list. I have seen the movie and thought it was cute and funny in some areas, but was not overly wowed, so I agree with your assessment, Aubrey. Thanks for writing it up. 😀

  1. Random late comment from a passer-by: In the book, Maggie calls her father nothing but Mo. I can’t remember if it was portrayed as disrespectful in the movie (if so, I’d attribute it to bad acting or bad writing), but in the book, it was just like calling him Daddy.

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