Remember those times when you were a feisty little toddler and your mother had a hard time making you go to bed ? She would never scream at you or even consciously try to spook you. She would just gently mention – “If you don’t sleep, the big man in the street would grab you through the window and take you away.” Innocent and benign as you were, you would still know in a corner of your heart that mom is just trying to scare you to sleep and that there was no such thing as a big man in the street. Well guess what ? You were wrong the whole time. The big man was always there waiting for you in the shadows, hiding from humanity.
Published in the year 1982, Roald Dahl’s novel The BFG was a roaring success winning numerous awards in the subsequent years. His stories have been adapted into several mediums such as play-acts and films such as the well-known Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Dahl’s knack for combining intelligent twists and darkly subtle satire evokes a certain mass appeal among both young and adult readers.
The BFG is about a little girl named Sophie (played by Ruby Barnhill) who lives in an Orphanage in London, run by a stiff patron Mrs. Clonkers. Sophie hates the establishment and as a sign of rebellion sneaks around her dorm at night and reads books hiding under the covers. However, she is also afraid of a huge shadow which she has frequently seen in the streets around 3 am every day. One night as curiosity gets the better of her, she finds herself in the balcony looking at the shadow longer than usual when it takes the form of a giant. She runs back under her covers, hoping it is all a dream but a giant hand sweeps into the dorm and grabs her.
The giant carries off, a now helpless, Sophie to a secret place called Giant’s Country ’cause she had now seen him and couldn’t be allowed to “blabberwuggle” to everyone about his existence. The BFG calmly assures her that he would not harm her in any way and they would have to live together for the rest of their lives. The screenplay is meticulously planned out from one fluid scene to another making each shot and piece of conversation a treat to watch. Understandably, the biggest challenge would have been to create a giant character who would not only appear large on screen but would also have to project an idea of a giant talking to a little girl who is tiny in comparison. The chemistry between Sophie and the BFG is flawlessly depicted and Ruby brings amazing authenticity to her character.
Spielberg’s masterful story-telling effortlessly paints a magical world in our imaginations in a matter of minutes. We gasp in wonder as the giant jumps over roads and bridges, swaying the trees as he swooshes over them, the proponent of a world hidden entirely from the forceful rationality that mankind lives in. Dahl’s essence is accurately captured in BFG’s character whose mannerisms and style of speaking is accurately depicted by Mark Rylance using motion capture technology and CGI. Rylance, a 2016 Oscar winner for Bridge of Spies, precisely describes the brilliance of Dahl through this interview where he says Dahl is known for inventing words (like Veggieterribles). In The BFG, sometimes you would not even understand what the giant says. Its probably not even in the dictionary but you would somehow understand it’s meaning from the very sound of it.
Now consider this idea – Sophie is afraid that someday some random strangers (to be foster parents) would come to the Orphanage and “grab” her out (the giant hand imagery) of all the others and take her away to a strange place.
Although The BFG seems to be a classic children’s tale, we also felt the presence of some underlying meaning to the story. Sophie has grown up in an Orphanage with an idea that most children in orphanages grow up with that they are unwanted by the society they live in. They are owned by the state and should abide by their strict rules, which are probably not applicable to the free people “outside”. Now consider this idea – Sophie is afraid that someday some random strangers (to be foster parents) would come to the Orphanage and “grab” her out (the giant hand imagery) of all the others and take her away to a strange place. The rules she has made for herself – “Never go out, never move the curtains” essentially mean that if she never shows herself to outsiders, she may never be picked ! However, somewhere in her heart she also hopes that if someday she does get picked up, her parents would be nice to her and they’d become friends who would not bind her by their rules but let her “chase her dreams” (this reference we leave with you until you watch the movie. The ones who have watched know what we mean here).
The BFG has all the ingredients of an instant classic – a remarkable story with mystery, adventure and love, the most endearing characters and a profound meaning.
Spielberg’s direction and Janusz Kamiński powerful cinematography make great stories come alive on screen every single time be it A.I : Artificial Intelligence, The Terminal, Minority Report and the recent Bridge of Spies to name a few. The BFG has all the ingredients of an instant classic – a remarkable story with mystery, adventure and love, the most endearing characters and a profound meaning.
Roald Dahl would have been proud of this production…
gobblpoint: One of the most beautifully made movies this year with an equally heartwarming story. You DO NOT miss Spielberg !