The Thin Line Between Magic and Realism in Movies

the thin line bw magic

Magic realism, if spoken in reference to literature, or even with reference to the world of cinema, is something that eludes definition. It is where the harsh reality of the world we live in co-exists harmoniously with something quite opposite in nature from an alternate world, yet there exists a thread that connects both these worlds. And this very thread is the theme that the filmmaker or the writer dares to explore. Often giving in to surrealism, these movies can be beautiful escapist fantasies from your humdrum, predictable films.  Given below are five treats for someone intending to explore this beautiful world.


Pan’s Labyrinth(2006)

Director: Guillermo del Toro

pan labyrinth

One of the pearls from Guillermo del Toro‘s body of work, this movie encompasses fairy tales, mystical creatures, fascists and rebel guerrillas. A little girl travels with her pregnant mother to a military outpost headed by a fascist Captain in Franco’s Spain.  There she meets a fawn, who entrusts to her certain tasks so she can become a princess and return to her father’s kingdom, where she once belonged to. As the story progresses you cannot help but notice the parallels between the fascist-guerrilla struggle and the mythical world which our little protagonist escapes into. One of the best themes of the movie is that of blind obedience, which the Captain believes in, and obeying with questioning, in which Ofelia believes, and for which she is rewarded in the end.


Biutiful (2010)

Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu


Here two-time Oscar-winning director Mr Innaritu’s other worldly direction combines with Xavier Bardem’s powerful, heartbreaking performance. Separated from his problematic wife, and living out a dreary life in a shabby apartment with his two dear children, Uxbal is the go-to guy if you happen to be an immigrant in Barcelona looking for a job. Tragedy strikes when he is diagnosed with terminal cancer, and he is not only faced with his own death, but the dark scepter of death follows him around everywhere and he must give in the end to this ultimate force of nature. Mesmerizing cinematography weaved in with the bittersweet relationships that the characters have between them, the film is a definite watch for someone who likes to watch slow going movies which capture the messiness of life within them.


Synecdoche (2008)

Director: Charlie Kaufman


Kaufman and Jonze are the two masters of bittersweet and cleverly complex but deeply allegorical narratives that pull you right in and then threaten you to choose between whether to laugh at the lead character or cry for him. Here, the great Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays a theatre director obsessed with his craft, who slowly but steadily loses his health, his family, and then the string of women who enter his life. He decides to create a mega project of theatre wherein he tries to recreate his entire life on stage with the drama becoming increasingly complex and intricate and then finally evolving into a never ending magnum opus for Caden (Hoffman).  Ripe with a lot of allegory, like a burning apartment inhabited by Caden’s girlfriend, representing the burning pyre that life really is, and a lot more, the movies is a slow roller coaster ride through a guy ‘s life who could, in fact, be anyone, including you and me.


Donnie Darko (2001)

Director: Richard Kelly


A cult classic that firmly established the young Jake Gyllenhaal as a rising star, Donnie Darko became an eventual cult classic. Though the plot elements of the story could also said to belong to science fiction, it is clear that fantasy is a ruling factor over here, where Donnie, the mentally disturbed young teenager, meets a guy wearing a demon rabbit costume, who tells him to commit a series of crimes, to prepare for the end of the world. Let me give a clear warning, this movie doesn’t only tackle themes like teenage angst, and juvenile delinquency and more, but it slowly takes you for a ride of the bizarre, but the kind of bizarre, that keeps you hooked. Another movie that reminds you of the chasm that exists between Bollywood and the mindboggling  cinema of Hollywood.


Eternal Sunshine Of the Spotless Mind

Director:  Michel Gondry


Another masterpiece from the writer- God Charlie Kaufman, this movie is also a deep rumination on love, the sweet melancholy of the beginning of any relationship, and the bitterness that slowly takes root. Joel, a shy and soft-spoken character played in a surprisingly understated manner by Jim Carrey and Clementine, a gypsy girl with a wild heart portrayed by Kate Winslet, fall in and out of love, after which, Clementine decides to have all memory of her ex erased through a new apparently efficient medical technology,  but things take an (obviously) unexpected turn. The same bittersweet feeling that all Kaufman movies have is omnipresent as is a tragicomic situations that Joel goes through the length of the film.


Mihir Golatkar

Team StoryMirror



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