„Dalíland” Review: Building the Ultimate Pink Pr*ck

Directed by Canadian filmmaker Mary Harron, “Dalíland” takes us on a journey into the world of the legendary surrealist artist Salvador Dalí. This biographical film takes a close look at the complex personality of Dalí and explores the fine line between genius and madness. While the movie offers glimpses of brilliance, the overall execution falls short of capturing the true essence of Dalí’s artistry.

Harron’s idea for the opening sequence is brilliant — it is an excerpt from the famous “What’s My Line” episode, perfectly summarizing Dalí’s unique personality. The story then revolves around James, an art college dropout working as an assistant in Dalí’s gallery in New York. Through his work, James is thrust into the inner circle of Dalí, becoming his personal assistant and runner.

Christopher Briney, who portrays James, tries to emulate the Dorian Gray look and aura, but fails to deliver a compelling performance. Similarly, Suki Waterhouse, who plays another key character, pushes too hard, trying to exude coolness and sensuality, ultimately coming across as caricaturish. The film effectively explores the thin line between genius and madness, as Dalí himself acknowledges, “People whispered I was mad.” Ezra Miller’s portrayal of the young Dalí channels his own strangeness, creating an aura of constant danger.

The dialogue at times feels clumsy and cheesy, detracting from the film’s overall impact. However, seasoned actors Ben Kingsley [Dalí] and Barbara Sukowa [Gala] shine in their roles as the extravagant, playful, and somewhat perverse couple. They cannot let go of each other but cannot live under the same roof for too long either.

Unfortunately, the visual aesthetic of the film feels inconsistent. The grainy, old-school exterior shots provide a nostalgic charm, but most of the film relies on digital, colorful imagery, which seems overly naturalistic for a movie about Dalí. On a positive note, the costumes are exquisite, capturing the extravagance and artistry of the era.


Source: IMDB

While the movie presents a comedic backdrop through colorful characters, music, and tempo, it lacks the true chaos and frantic energy that one would expect from a movie about Dalí. The narrative goes short of the necessary punch and does not fully embrace the craziness that is inherent to Dalí’s world. One cannot help but think, a touch of Baz Luhrmann’s style could have created a higher level of intensity and vibrancy.

Despite these shortcomings, “Dalíland” successfully highlights the enduring popularity and inspiration found in Dalí’s work and eccentric personality. Within the frame of one single scene, Dalí gives a speech on the passing of time, talks about his disdain for abstract art as well as demands insects, dwarfs, and a Spanish armor for his next party. These sequences provide wonderful glimpses into the mind of an utterly anxious man who completely invented himself.

Harron succeeds at capturing the deep love and care between Dalí and Gala, his muse and life partner. Their relationship is beautifully portrayed, highlighting the immense tolerance Gala must have had for Dalí’s difficult personality. In one sequence, Dalí’s anxiety reaches its peak as he believes he has an infection spreading in his hand. He cuts his finger and immediately thinks his hand needs to be cut off. Dalí, literally, rolls on the floor like a baby until Gala gets home and comforts him with a lullaby.

The film also touches upon the intriguing aspect of art as a business, shedding light on the complicated sales processes of original paintings and photocopies, and the dirty tricks played by people in the market to exploit artists for their own profit. This theme remains painfully relevant, demonstrating the challenges faced by artists in a world driven by commerce.

Despite its flaws, “Dalíland” serves as a reminder of Dalí’s immense talent, playful creativity, and challenging personality. It celebrates his lasting influence on the art world and the enduring allure of his work. While the film may not fully capture the energy and intensity associated with the man himself, it still offers a window into the life of an enigmatic artist who continues to fascinate and inspire.

Watch „Dalíland” on Apple TV, Vudu, Prime Video and Google Play.

~ by Dora Endre ~