Monday, July 22, 2013

Magic Realism in Movies by Christine Locke

I'm delighted to participate in the Magic Realism Blog Hop organized by Zoe Brooks.
After my post, you will find a listing of the other blogs on the hop.  At the end of the post, please enter our giveaway via Rafflecopter.  You could win a variety of ebooks (both of mine included) and a Franz Kafka bookmark.

Let's have a look at magic realism in the movies.  I've seen a few recently, and they were lots of fun, totally offbeat and a welcome relief from superhero blockbusters and animated kiddie bliss.

Did you enjoy Gwyneth Paltrow in "Sliding Doors?"  I know I did.  Over the last six months, I've been working on a story with parallel time elements, so
I love the fantastical elements here, the physical existence of two possible selves making two possible sets of choices.  And what I find most compelling is that the movie does not portray one path as completely good & happy and the other as wholly miserable.  As in real life, there has to be a resolution and some sacrifices must be made.  As a viewer, I was free to wonder which path would win out.  I was left to ask myself what I would do given the same sets of actions--both the ones Helen chooses to take and the ones that are beyond her control.

So, with that familiar example of a magic realism movie in mind, I'd like to share a few of my summer discoveries with you.  None of these movies are new, but they are movies I found as I completed my own manuscript this summer.  It was helpful to view how others handled some similar magical yet realistic elements.  Here are a few of the movies I "discovered" and found instructive.  Hope you will do the same.

I had never seen "Happy Accidents" before this summer.  The fantastical element involves time travel, so
maybe there's a little genre slippage here between Magic Realism and SciFi.  Yet, this movie does survive my personal test question for magic realism: Could you still have the same story if you changed the magic elements?  The answer here is yes, you could.  Because, even more than the how/why/when/where of the time travel questions, this movie is about falling in love and trust and wanting to change things for the better.  Just as you could explore the same options for Helen's life ("Sliding Doors") in a less magical way, you could also tell this love story without time travel.  And, yet, in both cases, the magic elements serve to catch the viewer off-guard and draw her deeper into the story.  The narrative becomes stronger through the magic, reminding us of those moments in our own lives when ordinary events appeared magical, sweeping us up in something compelling and mysteriously more than our everyday existence.

"And Then Came Lola" is the movie that's impossible to forget.  It's got that "indie"
quality, which I happen to love.  And "Lola" is very much like "Groundhog Day," one of my favorite movies of all time.  Lola needs to live the same day over and over again until she can get her act together enough to be present for the one she loves and win her over.  The magic element should be pretty obvious from that description.  I found that by the end of the movie I did love Lola, despite the fact that she was a true mess at the beginning.  There are a lot of teasing sex scenes in this one, so it's just for adults.  But it was really fun to watch a reworking of the Bill Murray classic.

I think my favorite discovery this summer, however, has been "Jeff Who Lives At Home."  It's the one I immediately told my husband he had to watch.  "Stick it out through the first few scenes," I warned him, because if you've ever had a grown child you feared would never get his own life, this movie might lose you there.  But you find out there's a lot more to Jeff's basement-dwelling than you think you know, and, then, there's the phone call.  The phone call.
Anyone else would have taken it for a wrong number, but Jeff doesn't.  This initiates a series of adventures that tell you not only all about Jeff's family and why each member as stuck as Jeff is, but also leads the viewer to ask the question.  Is Jeff nuts, or is Jeff on to something?  I've never wondered so much about a movie while watching it (will this just be another two hours of my life I'll never get back??) only to have my expectations so wholly subverted by the film's conclusion.  The characters in this film are so real, I feel like I might know some of them.  Seriously.  Maybe I shouldn't reveal that, given what wrecks they all
are when we first meet them, but participating--willing, by accident or coerced--in Jeff's quest (delusion??) resolves realistic problems for each one of them in very unique ways.  And then there's the magic element: Jeff, and the question...but I won't give that away.
If you've not already seen "Jeff," I hope you love it as much as I did.

What are your favorite movies in the magic realism genre?  I'd love it if you'd leave the titles in the comments here.  I'm always looking for some new ones for my to-watch list.

Thanks for visiting during the Magic Realism Blog hop.  Don't forget to enter our giveaway!

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