Starring: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill
Directed by: Steven 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 epitomized by little curious orphan Sophie, played with a mervelloussense 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 ET which came 34 years ago.
In many ways The BFG is Spielberg’s most charming and innocent film since ET.
It’s also the most difficult to make. The theme of the bonding between the little girl and her oversized friend could easily become an orgy of cloying cuteness. Spielberg never allows the drama to get hustled into hysteria.
In ET a little lonely boy befriends an alien creature and tries to hide the creature from wordly peril. Now, in TheBFG 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, a child genius trapped in an old man’s body 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, last seen in an equally superlative performance last year in Spielberg’s Bridge Of Spies) as the gentle giant , bringing such empathy and warmth to his part, you feel you are watching Gulliver’s Travels without the special effects.
Sophie finds her best friend.Spielberg is still looking. Thank God! In the pursuit of self-fulfilment lies the greatest works of art.