Though I spent a considerable time studying filmmaking at Portland State, I’ve never been particularly interested in writing about films. In fact, the only other movie I can remember discussing in three years of blogging was Frida, but I have to tell you that Finding Neverland was easily my favorite movie of the year.
Being a Johnny Depp fan initially attracted me to the movie, but I’ve seen many Depp movies without wanting to write about them. Though no Edward Scissorhands, Neverland still strikes me as a great movie.
It is a feel-good movie, as one might expect from a movie about the author of Peter Pan, but it is certainly not Pollyannaish. In fact, tragic elements in the story beautifully counterbalance what might have easily eroded into a kids’ movie. Of course, a quick glance at the net reveals that the true, “true-story” is even more tragic than the one presented in the movie, but it’s a delicately-balanced movie, that delicate balance perhaps being one of its greatest strengths.
In retrospect, I wonder if I didn’t like Finding Neverland for the same reasons I liked Frida. Specifically, both movies used innovative filmmaking techniques to convey an artist’s perception of his world in a way that could only be done through film. The audience is seamlessly transported back and forth between the artist’s real life and his artworks. We see how events or people in the artist’s life are transformed by the artist’s imagination into works of art.
We see how the artist used his imagination to transcend his life. Though some might be tempted to describe Barrie’s art as mere “escapism,” and there’s certainly some aspect of that in Peter Pan, one could also argue that there’s an element of “escapism” in most artwork. In a sense, even a great protest work like Picasso’s Guernica simultaneously protests the brutality of war while transforming that brutality to art, transmuting it to something quite different than the original act.
In the end the true artist becomes alchemist, transforming the dull dross of a past that never quite was to golden memories or weaving the dull reality of everyday life into dreams of a Golden Age.