Magic, Fantasy and Things You Can Touch
So this weekend has been host to our half-hearted attempt at a Star Wars marathon. For the first time ever (I think) the Cobles are endeavouring to watch all 6 SW movies back to back. Unlike your traditional movie marathon, we are watching them in fits and starts. Seeing as how today is Sunday and we've only made it through the first two films, you could say this is one of the more relaxed marathons out there.
A few days ago I watched a documentary on the making of Empire Strikes Back. It reminded me of how fascinated I was with those behind-the-scenes exposés when I was a kid. The total nerd in me couldn't get enough of Starlog articles showing George, Mark and Irvin standing around the full-size Dagobah set. I wanted so badly to be part of that world where fantasy intersects with reality in interesting, tangible ways.
All the best fantasy stories have a level of grounding in reality. Narnia has the world on this side of the wardrobe; Harry Potter has everything on the muggle side of platform 9 3/4. In the beautiful Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell the land of Faerie is just a mirror away. (I hate Lewis Carroll's Alice books, but he, too uses mirrors to bridge this world and that.) For all you Tolkein fans out there I would posit that the strong allegory to Great Britain serves as The Rings' touchstone to "our" world. The fantasy becomes more vivid when contrasted with the mundane. In a way I think these stories also serve an allegory to our relationship with God. We understand that we are part of this world, but faith and a sense of knowing connect us to that other, richer, more vibrant place.
I think fantasy works best when you see its connection to the tangible world. Rewatching some of the Making Of features for SWI and SWII drives that home for me. The behind-the-scenes world that looked so appealing to me as a kid is no longer an intersection of our reality and the world of the film. It's now a bunch of actors in front of green paper, with all the magic bits strewn in afterward. Those magic bits are impressive, beautiful and very well done. But they aren't something you can reach out and touch.
I miss that about movies today. I miss the sense of there being a place in this world where a bit of magic happened.