Just in case it isn’t obvious, this is not a place for reviews. Reviews require commitment and professionalism, both of which such a spontaneous medium I am currently working off of has not prove suitable. With that out of the way, I suppose it is long overdue that I write about this film. I was not very much alive back in 1939, and it being such an old film with no historic significance overseas meant that I never really had a chance to see it until after I came to America, and by that I mean last month.
Of course, the film today is to be judged my modern standards. I have spoken as such many times, else something simply would not be able to be classified as a great classic. That said, acknowledgements have to be made towards the effort and shortcomings of went into the making of this old movies. CGI wasn’t so off-hand back then, nor did it exist much at all, so it is bewildering somewhat to imagine how every set was filmed. Regardless, the film has to stand on its own merits, and I truly did not know what to expect when I load it up on the TV and sat down on the couch. I have no personal bias towards it, but people who do appear to be significantly positive. I didn’t know what to make of that.
The film’s first few minutes gave a great deal of context to the role Dorothy (Judy Garland) play in the upcoming hour and a half. Two sets of scenes and a song is enough to note how Dorothy possessed a certain troubled aspect of her own. She represented a lot of what children back then felt. They should always have a home, parents and acquaintances to go to. However, there is always that yearning desire to explore, whether stemmed from natural curiosity or insecurity, projected masterfully through the vulnerability and melancholy of Judy Garland’s voice. It is truly something that a more brassy, energetic young star would never be able to portray. The actress’ persona was projected into the young, innocent Dorothy, riddled with wishfulness and doubt. If such a little girl’s wishes were for her troubles to melt like lemon drops, you would believe she had trouble.
Even those she encountered on her journey to the Emerald City were clear representations of deeper fears. Are we smart? Are we loving? Are we brave? They are all perceived notions of virtues accepted by those around us as children, and we have little else but to aspire to fulfill them, especially in a time as the late 30s. The Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion are those who seek solace and help in this little girl, and in this process, she was helping herself. It was far more than companionship displayed within their adventure. Everyone had their own problems, and they all had to work through them. It was very helpful that all of the actors were playing their characters with inspiring self-consciousness, one could even argue the lack of it. They display the revue comedy required to enact the true innocence of those embracing ideals, and it makes their overcoming of obstacles admirable.
Everyone in the movie, as a dynamic character, needed a little help; even the great Wizard of Oz. Sure, he is but a man of con and ploy, but there was a certain amount of empathy to be expected from the audience. There was a pleasantly easy to follow trail of sequences leading to the tropes followed by many others. Dorothy was also an extremely relatable character, faced with a crisis, but then thrown into a whole new world. She then befriend those willing along the way to embark on an adventure, facing an advisory seemingly impossible to overcome. If you were to tell me that plot off hand I’d thought of 90s anime. It’s all very convenient and even contrived at times, but it’s far less a problem when the movie simply swept me up with the satisfying pushes.
There was also something that needed to be pointed out. I was obviously not there during the timeline of when this movie first came out, thus I never felt the full of impact of a coloured experience, comparing to the black and white of old. That was why when I first saw this movie, I just presumed it was going to be in black and white, or at least a hue of the colour brown. I suppose that was how the scene in Munchkinland truly got me, as the stark contrast of vibrant tinge invalidates the scene set by the darker, more poignant Kansas. It gave you a sense of perception into what Dorothy was thinking, and how her world view simply shifted as she was moved into this wonderful land, being touted as a hero of all things. While the entire way, she simply wanted to do nothing more than return home, that could be attributed to the fact that she thought her aunt was rather ill. Oz was a dream in the movies, but it was an actual place in the book. There were also some rather significant changes into how the plot was interpreted compare to the original, but those details were what would have become murky over the years regardless.
All in all, it was undeniable a fine film to experience. I am sure I have missed a decent amount of historical context associated with the film, but honestly it has not a thing to do with me. It is indeed a nice way to spend the evening, however.