A touch of family drama. A dash of fight sequences. A pinch of fantasy. Mixing them all together would seem like mixing oil, water, and sand, but instead we get an aesthetic, personal approach to independent film that only Ink can bring. With excellent lighting, script, and acting, Ink dazzles the eye with dream-like cinematography, touches the heart with authentic characters, and provokes the soul with spiritual themes fashioned for an audience that appreciates film as art with a purpose.
As humans fall asleep they are visited either by Storytellers, who make dreams to the slumbering world, or Incubi, the givers of nightmares. As the two sides travel around giving out their dreams, a mysterious deformed creature known as Ink abducts the soul of a young girl, Emma, in hopes of bartering her for a place among the Incubi. The Storytellers join with the Pathfinder, who has the power to feel the beat of the world and manipulate it, to save Emma before her soul is lost forever.
Ink resembles Christian author Frank Peretti’s novel, This Present Darkness, in the sense that the events of the natural world are influenced by the war waged between good and evil in the spiritual realm. Ink adds the intrigue of street-style martial arts as the Storytellers and Incubi fight over man’s will to do what is good or what is easy, finishing with a climactic battle to behold.
With the film’s low budget, Ink does not have the fancy CGI or explosions, so one could critique the simplicity of the Storytellers and Incubi. But what it lacks in special effects is made up for in creativity as the camera shots are more interested in the quality of the story rather than quality of the action. Parents, use discretion for younger audiences. Although the film is devoid of sex, nudity, and bloody violence, it has R-rated language. There are also elements that may frighten children, such as some nightmare sequences and the appearance of the Incubi.
Ink came to DVD in late 2009 but earned a second look because of its explosive popularity on the torrent sites. In short, a torrent is an illegal peer-to-peer downloading system. One can register with a torrent site in order to download media from fellow users of that particular torrent, as well as make your own media available for them to copy. With only 15 or so theater screenings and word of mouth to spread its release, Ink’s torrent download count reached 400,000 in its first week alone. Although the filmmakers would have appreciated donations from those who downloaded it, they’ve chosen to see it as a self-sustained marketing campaign, and DVD sales have risen from the massive exposure. Today, Ink may be found on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon instant video or for purchase. It is definitely worth a spot in everyone’s film collection.
From the beginning of the film, the viewer gets thrown into interpersonal conflict and fantastical combat with little to no exposition of how the fantasy world operates. Instead, the camera work and imagery cooperate to reveal the aspects of the fantasy world in the show-don’t-tell fashion. This is a plus for viewers who enjoy thinking and putting things together. Be advised, this is not a movie to watch while you’re half-asleep or looking for mindless entertainment. The film assumes an intelligent audience. Although it’s a secular film, its themes of godly redemption from shame and wretchedness will be clear to believing viewers without being explicitly Christian. This movie is a prime example of how Christians should make movies for the lost. If your agenda is to preach, you’ll get Fireproof. If your agenda is to tell a great story, you’ll get Ink, a masterpiece that speaks both to secular and religious audiences. (Listen for the line of dialogue that quotes a particular Bible verse. Hint: The verse comes from 2 Peter.)
Anyone who suffers from habitual sin, or who has done something that makes them wonder if God can really forgive them, should pay close attention to the developing relationship between Ink and Liev, the Storyteller who goes after Emma. Liev allows herself to be taken hostage with Emma in order to minister to Ink himself. But his paranoia convinces him that Liev is setting a trap. Their last conversation illustrates how God sees each and every one of us. Liev’s words to Ink are what Christ longs for us to understand about our identity. Not just in our minds, but in our hearts as well.
Trevor Main has a B.A. in fiction writing from Columbia College, Chicago, and is working on his master’s degree in communication at Dallas Theological Seminary. His ministry experience with Youth With a Mission has taken him across Europe, Africa, and Asia.
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