Fool’s Fire

Director: Julie Taymor
Screenwriters: Edgar Allan Poe, Julie Taymor

Institute History

  • 1992 Sundance Film Festival


From the opening scene, or in this case the opening “curtain,” Fool’s Fire is a spectacularly stylized, brilliantly imaginative tale of humiliation and revenge. This one-hour teleplay adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story brings the inspiration and creativity of Julie Taymor, a master of theatrical invention and puppetry, to feature filmmaking for the first time.

Fool’s Fire tells the story of Hopfrog, adroitly played by Michael Anderson, a dwarf court jester who is forced to play the fool to a corpulent king and his ministers. Though he treats Hopfrog cruelly, the king depends on his wit to amuse the entire court. Then the King is gifted with another little person, the diminutive ballerina Tripetta, whom the king debases and shames, an act which Hopfrog considers the final straw. When the King asks Hopfrog to assist him and his ministers in designing costumes for their upcoming masquerade ball, the jester concocts a horrific plan which will once and for all settle past scores.

Visually stunning and bizarre, the film is a fantastic collection of characters and scenes whose outlandishness approaches the surreal. Given the range of aberrant and grotesque beings which inhabit this universe, the tiny jester and his behavior seem normal by contrast. Director Taymor, a recipient of the 1991 MacArthur Genius Award, has won innumerable honors for her work with puppetry and masks on the stage. Her extraordinary inventiveness finds ample opportunity to express itself in Fool’s Fire. This comedy of the fantastic should not be missed.

Fool’s Fire was shot on 35-mm film and High Definition videotape, and then blended using the HDTV postproduction proces. Finally it was transferred back to 35-mm film using a Sony processor, resulting in richer colors and sharper detail.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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