Film: The BFG
Cast: Mark Rylance, Jermain Clement, Bill Hader (voices) and Ruby Barnhill
Director: Steven Spielberg
There will be many who have watched film adaptations of the children’s author, novelist, screenwriter and fighter pilot Roald Dahl whose birth centenary celebrations kick off this September in the UK but only readers of the books will have enjoyed the thrill of his rapier wit and lucid prose.
Steven Spielberg is the latest Hollywood czar to helm Dahl’s dark 1982 book scripted by the late Melissa Mathison (who also wrote “E.T.”) The BFG whose central characters are a nameless giant (voiced by Mark Rylance) and a brave little insomniac named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill,wonderful) whom he kidnaps on a dark and dismal night from an orphanage. But he doesn’t mean her any harm, this gentle giant who captures dreams (resembling fireflies) from a magical forest and blows them into the minds of Londoners with a magic trumpet. “Dreams are quick on the outside, but long on the inside,” he says.
The fear of being hunted makes the titular gentle giant turn kidnapper. Soon, an unlikely friendship ensues in a plot development akin to the Stockholm syndrome wherein the kidnapped empathises with the perpetrator, the most famous case being that of newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst. Sophie gets to know her kidnapper and calls him Big Friendly Giant (or BFG) and encourages him to overcome his speech impediment.
But all is not rosy: his fellow giants aren’t half as friendly as the BFG is. He is also a vegetarian while the rest are cannibals and murderers who live up to their names: Bone Cruncher, Blood Bottler, Fleshlumpeater, etc. Forgiveness is a cardinal virtue in most world religions and the faithful will doubtless be alarmed by the character who says “let there be no forgiveness”. Viewers in general will be uplifted by the themes of friendship, trust, courage and overcoming fear.
The story also reminds me in a way of the Madagascar toons: enter the military to the rescue! The bad giants are exiled from Giant Country to a remote island. Spielberg’s long time cinematographer Janusz Kaminski lenses this beautifully designed combo of live action and motion-capture animation; John Williams embellishes the film with a lovely music score. Rylance (last seen in Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies) is terrific. Will The BFG work in the regional language dubbed versions? Can’t say if Amitabh Bachchan’s Bhojpuri will do the needful as we say in India.