The BFG (2016)
D: Steven Spielberg. DP: Janusz Kaminski. W: Melissa Mathison. (Based on the novel by Roald Dahl). Starring: Mark Rylance/Ruby Barnhill/Penelope Wiltern/Rebecca Hall/Rafe Spall/Bill Hader.
A grand premiere in Cannes and a good showing at the box office, The BFG is on its way to becoming a children’s classic film adaptation.
This was the final script from E.T. scribe Melissa Mathison, before her death earlier this year, and The BFG is a heart warming piece of work that pays homage to its original writer, Roald Dahl. The film also reunites Mathison with E.T. director Steven Spielberg and composer John Williams. The combination is pure cinematic harmony as the vision for this adaptation is clearly in sync.
Using Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) as its book-ended narrator, Mathison keeps The BFG plot simple and sweet, but with an underlying threat that works. A testament to the five years she took to perfect the draft that yes tempers some of the darker, giants eat children elements, but that is necessary visually. The film follows Sophie as she is snatched from her bed in the witching hour, but soon befriends her snatcher, the Big Friendly Giant played by Mark Rylance. Her presence in giant land soon causes a stir as the rowdy group of nine other giants get an itch for human helpings and antagonize BFG for his human friend. Asking for aid in the highest of places, the kinship between Sophia and BFG drives the action and is able to remain genuine.
A combination of motion capture and computer generation, the sets and giants are a blend of real and created. This actually lends a magical element to the whole of giant land that emanates from Rylance’s performance. His West Country accent is a marvel of language as the BFG’s humble misuse of words is the main source of humor in the film. These verbal missteps coupled with his made up words like fizzy wollups and whizzpoppers lend a childlike charm to Rylance whose eyes beam out from a crinkle of wrinkles that holds up massive ears. The sequence of first time actress’ Barnhill’s Sophie and Rylance’s BFG through dream land is simply gorgeous. A site children and adults alike will surely remember.
The BFG belongs on the big screen and Spielberg brings a light touch to Dahl’s work that is often times laden with too much quirk. The menace of bad dreams is enough here and Williams’ score is present at all times to create a mood of magic. As Dahl adaptations go this is a clear success and left me wanting to re-read the book to remember the parts I loved and elements that as always, work on the page, but not on screen. Here’s hoping that the continued collaborations between Spielberg and Rylance are a success as with Bridge of Spies and The BFG they are two for two!