Emma Brockes has an article on the Guardian’s film section about the film of the Wizard of Oz which turns 70 this year. I’ve got to admit that the film has always slightly concerned me so I’ve sort of avoided it for years. I hadn’t appreciated the difficulty in bringing it to the screen but nevertheless, there’s something about it that disturbs me about it.
But the book itself is a strange beast. Baum uses it to remake the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm so that they more relevant to the children around him. In as much he imitates the Grimms through updating the scenes around him to something that echoes an ideal, that reflects the changing America around him. Rather than using forests, he focusses on the domestic and the industrial. Dorothy moves through the domestic, Alice-like, and grows into the role, challenging the witch who tries to “domesticate” her into the home and re-inforce her role. Instead she escapes after killing the witch with water.
She challenges the appearance of the Wizard and his reliance upon industrial gimmcrackery to project his presence. Rather than being awed by the screen, she discovers the real person hiding behind the screens and as such Baum creates a conundrum for himself. His fairy tale reflects and celebrates the modern world but Baum himself cannot bring himself to believe in the progress. It is a sham which must be exposed. The real strength is in Dorothy not the false facade of the Emerald City.
Baum is wonderfully successful in taking the fairy tale into the twentieth century and the turning the reductive determined fate of the Grimms’ fairy tales into something more open and interesting.
The The Wizard Of Oz is released on BluRay DVD in November.