The Mundane to the Metaphysical,

I love stories, this might be painfully obvious since I dedicate most of my time to creating them. But there are some special stories out there that I wanted to touch on today. I know I talk about writing and then most of the references I make in my blog relate to movies and that’s because I have things on in the background whilst I write and I have an enduring love for audio/visual stories, I try to write my book as if I were watching them on-screen.

The stories I want to talk about today are the one’s that take a contemporary setting and then introduce a fantastical element to them. These stories aren’t pure fantasy or science fiction or horror but the best of them are elegant combinations of our world with others or extraordinary tales of daring do grounded by real world themes.

The first of these that I really recognised for what it was, was a film called Big Fish (2003 – Directed by Tim Burton) starring Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney. A man nearing his death relates the fantastical story of his life to his estranged son in an attempt to reconcile their relationship. It is a bittersweet tale but one full of fantasy and wonder. Another was The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009 – Directed by Terry Gilliam), a mystical carnival attraction is brought back to life by a mysterious huckster (played by Heath Ledger and, after his sad passing, by Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell). The mystical mirror which is the centre piece of the attraction offers viewers a choice between enlightenment and blessed ignorance and is the result of a deal Parnassus made with the devil centuries before. Beyond the wonderful counter play of the magical world within the mirror and the dull and superficial world outside there is the story of how three A-list performers stepped forward to help finish a project marred by the sad death of the lead actor as a tribute to a young talent taken under tragic circumstances.

There have been others and the list may not be as high-brow as the first two entries, Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Hunter (2012 – Directed by Timur Bekmambetov) and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016 – Directed by Burr Steers) while period pieces still embody the carefree combination of the ‘real’ with fantastical elements. The stirring interpretation of the Gettysburg Address in the former would not be out of place in a serious biopic piece and it’s that attention to detail that keeps bringing me back to that particular film.

There are others for sure, Pans Labyrinth (2006 – Guillermo del Torro) or the film Secondhand Lions (2003 – Tim McCanlies) and (although to a lesser extent) The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot (2019 – Robert D. Krzykowski) all speak to something within and that something is, to me, that same part that compelled me to play make-believe as a child. That certain knowledge that there was more out there than the everyday which, as I grew and learned more about the world around me, started to fade through my cynical and oh-so-serious teenage years.

I love these films because of the wonder they evoke and the way in which they present alternative takes on events without apology for being anything but what they are. Another thing that I feel characterises these stories is that, as much as they strive to provoke that sense of wonder they also carry a sense of melancholy, of the loss of that same innocence and sense of wonder as we get older. And that is something I, and maybe you, are trying to rekindle in others through our stories because it is something we need to preserve. The world is a cynical place, it could always use a little more wonder in it.

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