Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

August 22, 2005 psipsina

Just saw the movie with the Red-Haired Boy.  Quick thoughts – Johnny Depp is a way better Willie Wonka than Gene Wilder, if only because Depp is a better actor.  There are moments in the original movie where Gene Wilder’s face is clearly meant to convey something, but beats the hell out of me what it is.  Depp’s face can, and does, convey anything.  Plus, Wilder was creepy in a malicious way, as if he were thinking, “Hmm … I wonder if these children would be good to eat?”  I don’t think that this is in the spirt of Dahl’s book.  Depp is creepy in a clueless way, as if all those years he spent in the factory with only strange little Oompa Loompas for company have unhinged him.  But unhinged him in a specific way:  Willie no longer knows how to behave in human society.

So yes, give me Johnny over Gene any day, though I know I have at least one reader who will disagree.

Plus, Tim Burton really knows a ramshackle house when he sees one.

But why oh why the invented back story?  Who cares whether Willie Wonka’s father loved him?  What is it with movies (like this one, and The Grinch) that must try to explain why the evil or creepy central figure became the way he did?  Must filmmakers psychoanalyze everyone?  If the book’s author doesn’t believe it’s important, why can’t the filmmaker resist adding in that detail?  And worse, doesn’t it detract from our ability to imagine a character if the filmmaker does the imagining for us?  And worst of all, the explanation is so predictable:  if we believe what we see in the movies, every villain was scarred by his childhood, and everyone who is scarred by his childhood will become a villain.

It is impossible, it seems, to see a person as anything other than a bundle of unconscious motivations and unfulfilled wishes; and to see evil as anything but the expression of those motivations and wishes.

I blame Freud.

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