Sunday, February 06, 2005

Finding Neverland

I was so glad this movie got Oscar nominations because it prompted a re-release in the theatres, thus I was able to go see it this weekend after missing it the first time around. So if you haven't seen it, I don't want to spoil anything for you by reading my take on be warned, in reading further you're liable to find out things about the movie you may not want to.

So if you don't want to spoil anything, stop reading! And come back after you've seen it.

So, Finding Neverland got Oscar nominations for... art direction, costume design, editing, original score, adapted screenplay, best picture and best actor for Johnny Depp.

It was a beautiful film. I was in the musical "Peter Pan" in high school, and although it departs some from the Barrie original, it was such a magical story for me then. So I came into it expecting magical things. The score was indeed amazing because it blended so beautifully with the story being told and didn't draw attention to itself. Ditto for the costumes - it brings you right back to the early 1900's in England (as if we were all there in the first place:-) The editing was stellar for reasons I'll mention below. It earned every nomination it received, in my opinion. I thought the acting was superb all around - Johnny Depp has an amazing talent and even though he looks a little freaky in the Willy Wonka trailers, I think his understated performance here showed true depth.

Now I'll talk about two different things that mesmorized me and will have me thinking about for some time to come. I can't talk about everything because I'd be here all just two...

1- In the movie, Barrie and the four children move between the "real world" and the fantasy world of their imaginations. But instead of it being some stark contrast between the real and the fantasy, they were blended together (through fabulous editing) in a way that, at times, you didn't know which you were in. And indeed, you didn't really care. Two scenes stand out in my mind. In the first, Barrie and his wife are about to enter their separate bedrooms. They don't comminucate well and she doesn't understand him. When she opens her door, she enters her bedroom, but when he opens his door, we see a picture of the outdoors, he walks in and closes the door. Simple, simple moment yet it spoke so much! I love it when films don't feel they have to spell it out and let us imagine the many things that moment can mean. It was perfect. Barrie's imaginary world cannot be toppled by the disbelief of his wife. The two of them, literally, are in different worlds...etc. etc. In the other scene, the four boys, of which Peter is one, are playing a western cowboy and Indian type game and we come upon them in their fantasy world. Intercut throughout the scene, we see they are playing in the backyard and as two of the boys begin to quarrel and fight we rapidly switch between the fantasy world background and the real background of the garden, almost as if their fight is a picture of the wrestling that is taking place within Barrie himself between his real and fantasy world. There is also a wrestling taking place bewteen the grandmother of the boys and their mother and Barrie. The grandmother wants to put a stop to the silly games while their mother and Barrie see it is exactly what they need. It was a brilliant way to show that tension.

2 -If we step back and think about the movie in spiritual terms, it is also a picture of a believer. In the movie, Barrie says that if you believe something long enough and hard enough than it is true. He believes in what can't be seen. His fantasy world is as real as the real world to him. He is misunderstood by his own wife, who cannot believe, even when he invites her to join him. Barrie's own producer thought him mad when he first proposes the story of Peter Pan. He gets opposition from his wife, the boys grandmother, his own producer, but he presses on because he believes. Do you see the parallels in the life of a believer in Christ? What is so real and clear and obvious to us, seems mad, absurd and even dangerous to those who would be threatened by our willingness to just believe. We believe in a spirtual world that is every bit as real as the real world, but unbelievers would not understand that. We invite others to join us and the accuse us of being weak, or simple or naive. We propose the gospel of Jesus Christ and it is waved off as a myth with no true power to save. But we know different, don't we? We press on, believeing, no matter what the costs because we know what we believe is true.

Amazing movie, really. You have to see it to believe it.