I recently saw The Fall, a stunning film by Tarsem Singh. Like The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Princess Bride, Pan’s Labyrinth, and countless others before it, it is essentially an epic fairytale, but told for an adult audience. While the plot and dialogue were a bit pat for my taste, the visuals were jaw-dropping, having been shot in 18 different countries, then seamlessly woven together into a vivid Otherworld.
The film also got me thinking about art with a fantastical bent. While there has been a place for this type of work to some degree in virtually every era, it strikes me that we often feel collectively drawn to it in times of uncertainty. (For example, the surrealist movement sprung up between the two world wars, and drew heavily upon the overlapping realms of mythology, psychology, and stream-of-consciousness fantasy).
This work offers escapism and inspiration, and often affirms our hopes that goodness and beauty will ultimately win out. With an ailing environment, a limping economy, and political anxiety in the air, is it any wonder that the most popular films of the past few years have been based on comic book heroes and fabled, magical lands? And as technology gets exponentially better, we can tell these stories in an even more sophisticated manner, offering a glimpse into dreamscapes and happily ever afters.
Below are some of my favorite fantastical pictures that were art directed by the NYC branch of Getty Images creative team: