Film: “The BFG”; Director: Steven Spielberg; Cast: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill; Rating: ****
Viewing Spielberg’s latest fantasy-adventure story is akin to being transported into an embarrassment of visual and emotional riches. You feel you are being pulled gently and playfully into a world whose existence we don’t even dream about, and yet here it is, opening up vistas in front of our eyes that cinema never dreamt of before Spielberg.
Many times I felt I was looking at a Sanjay Leela Bhansali creation as Spielberg’s “The BFG” (that’s The Big Friendly Giant for those who came in late) exploded into a kaleidoscope of saturated frames in colours that would look garish and overdone in any cinema except those by Spielberg and Bhansali. Both the filmmakers preserve what a song by the Swedish group ABBA described as the “wonder of a fairtytale” in their creation.
The child within all of us is somewhere epitomised by little curious orphan Sophie, played with a marvellous sense of contextual propriety and impromptu responsiveness by Ruby Barnhill. In her complete absence of annoying precociousness and her acceptance of her own premature wisdom Barnhill reminded me of little Henry Thomas in Spielberg’s “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”, which came 34 years ago.
In many ways, “The BFG” is Spielberg’s most charming and innocent film since “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”.
In “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”, a little lonely boy befriends an alien creature and tries to hide the creature from worldly peril. Now, in “The BFG” the tables are turned. It is the human child which needs protection. It is tempting to see the relationship between Sophie and the BFG as a parable on the issue of child abuse. As the gentle Giant hides Sophie from ugly over-sized ogres who want to gobble her up, the sexual dynamics of the theme are scratched and dragged to the surface.
But Spielberg beats back all sexual readings of Roald Dahl’s story. Instead the film weaves a magical mystical bonding between spiritual innocence and physical enormity.
Yes, size matters when it is used not to subjugate those smaller than you. But to help the weak to cross difficult bridges. The BFG’s heartwarming message of hope must not be missed. Besides being a marvel of technical accomplishment, it features the immensely gifted Mark Rylance as the gentle Giant, bringing such empathy and warmth to his part, you feel you are watching “Gulliver’s Travels” without the special effects.
What makes “The BFG” supremely special is not just the way every frame has been put together accentuating the physical disparity and emotional empathy between Sophie and the Giant, but also the manner in which the original story by Roald Dahl is sublimated to contour the eternal bonding between two lonely misfits.