Other Wind
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Magic Realism

I found this article by Bruce Holland Rogers on the SciFi/Fantasy section of Writing-World.com:

What Is Magical Realism, Really?

I’ve never read Gabriel Garcia Marquez, although I’ve been planning to read One Hundred Years of Solitude for a while now. In fact, I’ve never read anything that I know is Magic Realism. I wonder if Toni Morrison’s Beloved is considered Magic Realism, since Beloved herself is a ghost, and since her family seems to accept her as a matter of fact.

When I was talking to David about the article, he asked if the movies Donnie Darko, Unbreakable, and Magnolia are considered Magic Realism.

First of all, I don’t know if the term applies to film as well as literature. I don’t think Magnolia would qualify. The only “magic” that occurs in it is frogs raining from the sky, and since frogs have been known to rain, I don’t think the shower in this movie can be called “magic.”

The other two movies, Donnie Darko and Unbreakable, focus on people to whom surreal or fantastic things happen. The events are presented as real, but I don’t know if that alone marks these films as Magic Realism. They lack the other part of the definition—that the story be told through the eyes of a person or a people who live in our world but who view the world through different, more magical, eyes. Donnie Darko and David Dunn experience their fantastic circumstances as outsiders like us, not as insiders of a separate or “sub” culture.

One of the stories I’ve started writing (well mostly just thinking) is about a little girl named Amy who imagines magical things about her older sister and about the natives of the island to which her family has just moved. She believes that her imagination is giving her truer visions of these people, and in turn begins to see them in much more heroic and monstrous lights. While this story isn’t textbook Magic Realism (because, as far as I know at this point, Amy will come to realize her visions are just visions), I think it is similar. Amy really believes what she sees and her imagination affects her actions and therefore the real world.

See if you can get hold of a movie that came out last summer titled "Swimming Pool." The magical component is the develpment of the author's novel, fiction within fiction, while the realism is the actual author's life as she spends the summer in France. The two plot weave in and out of each other totally confusing us and it isn't until the end that we become aware of what we have just seen. I think it's one of the best examples of Magical Realism in film. Let me know what you think.

Posted by: Tom on November 12, 2003 09:02 PM