Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The Wizard of Oz (1939) Review

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Directed by Victor Fleming

The Wizard of Oz directed by Victor Fleming in 1939 follows the dream world of Oz and Dorothy’s (Judy Garland) quest to get home to her family, but the Wicked Witch of the West has other plans.

The Wizard of Oz is believed to be one of the most famous films of all time, and for good reason, from enchanting characters such as the Cowardly Lion, the Brainless Scarecrow and the Heartless Tin Man, as well as the terrifying Wicked Witch of the West.
“Wizard of Oz is one of the most-protected films in history, and it's also one of the most well-covered”

Of course the mere mention of The Wizard of Oz we are gathering thoughts of the film, and one of the most iconic pieces of environment comes along with these thoughts, the yellow brick road, there are many reasons for this, perhaps the stretching singing from the Munchkins and their love for it, or perhaps because it remains in the film for at least two thirds, and this road leads the band of characters through a variety of environments, from the beginning, the Munchkins home, which seems to be Charlie and the Chocolate Factory spliced with Thumbelina, yet it still has its own fascination of plants and small mushroom houses, there is little like it, the yellow bricks leads Dorothy to a crossroads which presents her with her new found friends, the Scarecrows from the crop field, which seems too perfect to believe, thus giving more evidence that they are in a dream world of fantasy, with no branches on any crops broken, completely untouched unlike the fence around them, which appears as old as the Scarecrow.
Next we see the Tin Man, his residence seems to be borderlines with a forest, this scene looks like an artificial Red Riding Hood scene, with the small log cabin which is seen in the background and has no interaction with the characters; as the characters continue their adventures, the woods as seen in the previous scene become more dark and gloomy, which looks like, yet again, an artificial forest, with the bright yellow road as a centre piece, with tree branches reaching across, almost like an attempt to hide the road from anyone, this gives the forest a menacing atmosphere, as well as the characters and audience unable to see any blue sky, yet it is midday; once the Lion has joined them, the next scene to be shown is the field of poppies, which looks like it was borrowed from the Sound of Music, with bountiful hills that seem to go on for eternity, until we see the sight that has these characters on their voyage, the Emerald City; the outside presence of the city it appears to be made from emeralds/crystals almost like Kryptonite (from Super-Man) and a similar theme continues within the city, everything is of course an emerald shade and everything appears to be made from glass, it is as if the characters have entered a ‘walkthrough-crystal-emerald’ the environment is kept quite clear and basic, with reflective flooring, small areas of potted plants (which are all still green) and every civilian is dressed in green also.
The next major location is the Wizard of Oz’s chamber, where we are presented with small and large alters, which give an impression of power and wealth, with blazing flames which never appear to quit, which of course strikes fear into anyone.
As the characters are informed they need to take the Wicked Witch of the West’s broom in order to receive their rewards, we are given a completely different atmosphere where we find the characters walking through, what only can be described to be a haunted wood, with cheap figures of owls and vultures with blaring red eyes, with no trees having leafs it gives the impression of death and loneliness, until Dorothy is taken to the Witches castle, which yet again is very basic for such a grand building, we are given little brick work to see, but plenty of space for the characters to interact with, from her bedroom/study which is given stained glass, a large looking crystal and a horde of flying monkeys; the only real feature is the large doors which do look like they are from a medieval period.

Of course one of the strangest film techniques of its time period, the film starts in black and white, then switches to colour, and then back again, this ultimately gives Oz a place of fantasy and artificial make believe, which pays off for the director because it is highly effective.

The only scenes within the black and white era consist of the farm where Dorothy lives, which is of course like any other farm, from picket fences, small houses with two sets of doors, one for keeping flies and other pests out and the other for entering the house, alongside this is the rarity of plant life, except for a few trees, most probably because they were dug up to make room for the farm itself. We also get see inside the house, which is basic, plan with barely and luxuries, which is what anyone would suspect from a farm house, but it could also be seen as a generalisation.
Upon Dorothy running away from home, we also see Professor Marvel’s caravan which is pulled by a horse, yet again this set is a generalisation, from little trinkets hanging from the ceiling, to a small crystal ball and a large chair where Professor Marvel sits to tell fortunes.
“sugar-rush of that shift from sepia-monochrome to full colour as Dorothy realises she's not in Kansas any more”

The Wizard of Oz can be seen as many messages from any perspective, for example, because the world is seen as a dream, Dorothy can be seen as leaving home in search of independence, yet when her Auntie becomes sick, she drastically needs to search for her family instead, thus giving the importance of family over your own intentions, but of course this is only from one seeing point.
The movie can also be seen as fighting for your friends and family, one reason she is leaving home is to defend her dog Toto, because she believes if he is found that he will be destroyed, thus her need to travel far away.
“Garland’s Dorothy embodies the fantasy of all children who dream of leaving the cocoon of their protected lives and spreading their wings. With her companions — the clowning but clever Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), the compassionate Tin Man (Jack Haley) and the blubbering Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) — she journeys along the yellow brick road through a land of magic and wonder, a butterfly blossoming in a candy-colored phantasmagoria.”

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