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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) December 29, 2005

Posted by sensawunda in Movies.
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Tim Burton IS a sensawundameter; any project he takes on is going to have sensawunda, to one extent or another. And Roald Dahl is a perfect match for him. Their imaginations are warped in much the same direction. As a child, I loved Dahl’s books, and this version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory comes very close to capturing the essence of the book (as well as I can remember it).

I have the same difficulty with this movie as with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe—I read the book as a child, so as I watch I’m comparing the movie with my memory of the book, not experiencing it anew.

Some elements of sensawunda in this movie:
· Charlie’s home and family… now why is that? I remember that element quite distinctly from the book, too. I think it’s because the poverty of the Buckets is of mythic proportions. It’s not something you’d see in a newscast, it’s only possible in dreams for a house to tilt at such an angle, a child to build a scale model out of deformed toothpaste caps, a family to live on cabbage soup (“Ah well, nothing goes with cabbage like cabbage!?) And then there’s the image that stuck with me from childhood—the four grandparents in their bed in the middle of the house, like a geriatric double Pushme-Pullyu.

· Willy Wonka, of course. Johnny Depp has made a career out of playing deeply weird characters, and he just gets better at it. I couldn’t stop watching him. In the factory scenes, his face appeared to have been filmed in black and white and colorized. To emphasize his difference from other people, I suppose? Or just because he hasn’t seen the light of day in 15 years? Willy Wonka is beyond eccentric, and his unorthodox reactions to the people he invites into his factory help throw them into that alternate perspective that Stephen Baxter referred to in his quote in my post of 12/7/2005.

· The extreme fates of the other children… though they’re shown to have survived, however altered, after they’ve all been disqualified. What happened to them is symbolic, and to a child’s mind, fitting. (Remember that intense focus on what’s fair?)

Sensawundameter: WandWandWandWand

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