Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fiction into Film - The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

I prefer to read a story before I see its adaption into film. I can accept changes made to a story in a film, but I can’t prevent my imagination from being affected when I see the film version of a story first. When I read, I relish the picture my imagination creates for me. I begin my paragraph about The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with this point because it’s particularly relevant to this review. I grew up with Dorothy and her three companions, the scarecrow, the tin man, and the cowardly lion. As a young girl growing up in America when the film The Wizard of Oz was regularly shown on network TV beginning with commentary by renowned TV personalities, I counted on it as a staple of my childhood. Baum’s original story was very different from the film version, and because not only had I seen the film first and many, many times, and that it was such a feature of my childhood experience, I was unable to fully realize the potential of my imagination to create an original picture for me. I still enjoyed it, and in fact, I was pleasantly surprised because I was anticipating that I would be reading the story I already knew that was the film.
The twist was that in seeing the film first, and then reading the original story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, I was dumbstruck by the incongruity of Baum’s introductory stated aim to “solely to please children of the day.” As he felt modern education included morality, he would write a story that would keep all the wonderment and joy, yet leave out all of the heartaches and nightmares. Was that his intention when he created the terrifying creatures called the Kalidahs and or when he had the Tin Woodman use his ax to slay 40 wolves and then cut off the head of a wildcat? Baum’s Tin Woodman provides yet another dichotomy in the following passage, representing how we, as human beings, love.

Tin Woodman knew very well he had no heart, and therefore he took great care never to be cruel or unkind to anything. “You people with hearts,” he said, “have something to guide you, and need never do wrong; but I have no heart, and so I must be very careful. When Oz gives me a heart of course I needn’t mind so much.”
Not having a heart actually makes him more sensitive and “care.” On the other hand, he thinks that when he possesses a heart, it will not be necessary for him to “mind.” The two points are disconnected and opposed, implying that those with hearts are actually careless, and that the mind (intellect) and heart (emotions) can be considered separate. Don’t we always end up hurting the ones we love? What Baum intended to do and what he did is at odds, his story contains profound subject matter and is most certainly morally based. Baum’s notion of writing a story for children’s entertainment sake alone, its discord with the actual story he created and its screen adaption, as well as in the dichotomy evidenced by Tin Woodman’s desire for a heart, set up a wonderful mimicry for the studying of fiction into film.
Dorothy finds out how we hurt the ones we love when she searches for that somewhere else "Over the Rainbow" and ends up breaking Aunt Em's heart. My heart reels when I hear how beautiful Judy Garland's voice is and lovely she sings this song. I sadly recall how very young she was when she died. Perhaps what is gray (like Kansas) is really not if we could look at things through rose colored glasses using the expression inside out or in a glass half full sense.

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