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Big Fish

August 3, 2009

I remember when Big Fish came out in theatres because I saw it in my home town one screen movie theatre with The Triplets.  I think there was someone else along, too, but I specifically remember The Triplets because when the movie was over, I asked what the boys thought of it, and the one who shares my brother’s name completely shocked me by exclaiming, “THAT WAS FUCKING AWESOME.”

Not that I’d never heard that word before.  Oh no, I was 17 or 18 years old, but this boy–all three boys, really–was a much, much bigger goody two-shoes than I was.

That was saying something at that point.

In fact, that probably still says something.  I am who I am, people.

But, while I didn’t partake in his rather startling exclamations, I agreed.  Good. Movie.

(it’s really where my love affair with Tim Burton movies began.)

And at some point I ended up with a copy of the movie on DVD, and since then I’ve watched it approximately 362.3 times. (the 0.3 comes in because I did a paper on the music in the movie for my film class a year or two ago, you see, and re-watched a few scenes here and there in the name of research. that class was awesome.)  We’ll just say I know the movie pretty dang well.

So I knew picking up the book the movie was based on would be a little dangerous.  Would it ruin the movie for me for the rest of all time? (The Princess Bride is hard for me to watch anymore, guys, really.) Would it not live up to the movie? (Unlikely.)  What would come of this?

Well, really, it was something I’ve never experienced.

The very nature of the Big Fish story is that the stories of this one man’s life are so epic, have been retold so many times, that he becomes a legend, a giant, and the details are never quite the same from telling to telling.  The tales become more and more exaggerated until he is snatching deadly snakes out of the water, riding gigantic catfish, and watching his naval ship sink from beneath the surface, breathing all the while.

The book was not the same as the movie.  To be more accurate, the movie was not the same as the book.  But in this case, the artistic license taken in the movie was more than just necessary for the adaptation, it was completely appropriate.  Complimentary even.  Some things most certainly didn’t match up, and some things did.  You found that Burton used the same people throughout his movie to connect places and characters that showed no real connection in the book– however, knowing that someone had thought to connect them, or maybe had just been reading closely enough to decipher the connections and was kind enough to point them out to those of us who aren’t so capable of digging so deep into a narrative, really brought the themes of the book to life in a way I’d have never known had I not seen the movie first.  There were points in the book where I’d be reading and flash back to what had happened in the movie and suddenly out of the pages would spring a whole new dimension.  There were points where I’d be reading along and find a description that instantaneously gave the movie more depth.  It was an incredible experience, to read this book, knowing the movie.  The parts that matched were different enough to lend to the theme of exaggeration, to encourage imagination of all the versions of the stories that must have been told between the book version and the movie version.  The parts that didn’t match didn’t matter.  They only added complexity to what I already knew, mystery to what I’d never quite figured out– just the way the people in Edward Bloom’s life must have experienced time and time again.

This isn’t one of those typical cases where one is certainly better than the other and the very typical cases where the book far surpasses the film.  No, this one story in these two forms– they should both be experienced, because I’m now convinced indulging in just one or the other will never give a complete picture of all this story is capable of being.

I might go back to the library and read it again next week.

After I’ve watched the movie for the 363.3rd time.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 3, 2009 9:25 am

    Big Fish is one of my favorite movies. It was so well done

  2. tabithablogs permalink
    August 3, 2009 1:32 pm

    I loooooved Big Fish! Shamefully, though, I didn’t even know it was based on a book. I’m gonna have to add that to my Must Read List. Thanks for your “review” here — beautifully written!

  3. August 3, 2009 4:39 pm

    I will definitely read the book now. I absolutely LOVE that movie, and while I haven’t watched it nearly as many times as you, I’ve watched it enough that I know it pretty well, too. Thanks for the the review!

  4. cari permalink
    August 3, 2009 11:46 pm

    i’ve never seen the movie or read the book. HOWEVER, i think i’ve HEARD of it. though at this point, it’s just another movie to watch and book to read. if i actually kept TABS of the movies i need to watch, i’d be so intimidated by the list. ugh. too much media. not enough time.

  5. August 4, 2009 6:30 pm

    Book-to-movie translations always have their place and are never quite the same, but this truly was an example of a ‘good’ adaptation without it needing to be verbatim, or ‘faithful’.

    And you know what, we don’t see Ewan McGregor doing many high profile stuff like this lately, do we? Well, maybe soon.

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