Brief History on the Fantasy Genre
The genre of fantasy is built on the human imagination. Fantasy films take us into unreal, fairytale worlds, places where we cannot go in real life. These fantasy worlds often include magic, wonders, and myths. Fantasy films also involve supernatural events and made up creatures, according the the HorrorCrime film website. Fantasy films are often said to be like dreams, escapes from the real world. According to Filmsite, fantasy films usually portray a hero that goes through some sort of magical experience. Because the hero has to deal with challenging situations, he must seek aid from humans that possess supernatural powers or abilities. Fantasy films also often depict princes and princesses and their triumphs over evil forces. Angels, fairies, and gods or goddesses are popular characters in fantasy films as well.
Fantasy films frequently overlap with other types of films, a point brought up by both Filmsite and HorrorCrime. The first type of film they tend to overlap with is science fiction. This usually happens when technology plays a large role in the film’s world of fantasy, leading to a greater feel of science fiction. Second, fantasy films tend to overlap with horror films. This happens when the supernatural forces of the fantasy film are intended to be frightening. So, fantasy films are not restrained within their genre. They can branch out and incorporate other genres in order to be a more dynamic.
Many early fantasy films depicted the future and what people thought would become of the world. Some of these early films include Metropolis (1927), which depicts urban workers, and Voyage Dans La Lune (1902), which is about a trip to the moon, something that had not happened at the time the film was made. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, more special effects and animation began to be used in fantasy films. This was seen from George Pal and Ray Harryhausen, just to name a few creators of animation and special effects. One of Ray Harryhausen’s famous pieces is Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956), a film in which flying saucers destroy Washington D.C. George Pal also created many special effects in films, and actually won four Oscars for doing so. He won his fourth Oscar for the film Tom Thumb (1958). Special effects and unreal characters did not cease to be utilized after the 50’s and 60’s. To create truly unreal characters, director Frank Oz used Muppets in his film The Dark Crystal (1982).
The subjects of fantasy films are very wide and can be about anything the human mind creates. Whether the film is based on the future, the suspenseful journey taken by a wizard, or even the tale of another world or galaxy, there really is no limit to fantasy films. And since fantasy films have become such a strong genre, people are extremely creative and imaginative while creating those films. This creativity can be seen in so many fantasy films, such as The Wizard of Oz (1939), Harry Potter, Avatar (2009) , and more recently Red Riding Hood (2011), Beastly (2011), and Tangled (2011). For my project, I am going to look specifically at scenes from Harry Potter and The Wizard of Oz.
For my classic fantasy scene, I chose the scene from The Wizard of Oz (1939) when Dorothy falls into the dream and arrives in Oz. The scene begins with Dorothy in Kansas, trying to find shelter from the tornado. Dorothy is frantically searching for her Aunt, and ends up going back into her house. She hits her head, and falls into a deep slumber. When she “awakens,” she steps out of the house into the colorful world of Oz (everything was in sepia in Kansas). She looks around, amazed, at the trees, houses, and wonders where she is.
The transition of the scene was very interesting, and played a great deal in conveying that Dorothy was in a dream. This was seen by the fact that when Dorothy was in Kansas everything was in sepia, but when she was in Oz, her dream, everything was in color. To first begin with the décor, the little house that Dorothy was in during the tornado was very ordinary and quaint. The normal house was in great contrast with the intricate décor of Oz. There were many shrubs, colorful flowers, small huts, and a colorful road in Oz. This set was obviously created and painted, but it was nevertheless beautiful.
The lighting also changed throughout the scene. In Kansas the lighting was dim, and it was often hard to see when Dorothy was outside in the tornado. In Oz, however, the lighting was very bright. This conveyed the happy and eye-opening feeling that Oz possessed. Lighting can definitely change the feeling of a film, which is a point discussed in the Yale mis-en-scene article. The use of space was also important in this scene. Close-ups on Dorothy were often used, showing her expression of awe upon arriving in Oz. There was one moment in the scene where Dorothy was in the middle of the set, looking around curiously, and the small heads (disguised by the fact that there were flowers on top of their heads) of the munchkins could be seen every so slightly in the foreground. That was the most humorous moment of the scene.
The costumes in this scene are very famous. Costumes can signify certain characters in a scene, according to the Yale mis-en-scene article, which is definitely the case in The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy was wearing her signature blue dress and pigtails, and the munchkins were briefly shown with flowers on their heads. By looking at the costumes, as well as the set, it is easy to identify this as an older film. One can also recognize that it is an older film by the acting. The emotions and actions are very obvious so that the audience does not experience any misunderstandings of what is happening in the scene. Dorothy goes through a transition in this scene, from Kansas to Oz, and portrays her awe and curiosity well, but quite obviously.
The set, lighting, space, costume, and acting all contribute to the overall classic fantasy-like feel of this movie. The fact that most of these elements go through a transition shows how the character herself undergoes a transition in the film.
Link to scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Za137P-FTf0
For my contemporary fantasy scene, I chose the duel scene between Dumbledore and Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007). In the scene Harry is at the Ministry of Magic, where Voldemort and one of his servants, Bellatrix, happen to be as well. Dumbledore arrives suddenly and a duel between Voldemort and Dumbledore commences. The duel is very intense, and includes a huge snake of fire, which is born out of Voldemort’s evil magic, and also a large, rolling wave that Dumbledore casts upon Voldemort. At the end of the duel, Voldemort believes he is going to win by propelling sheered glass at Dumbledore and Harry, but Dumbledore is prepared and he shields himself and Harry from the glass. After that failed attempt, Voldemort quickly disappears, ending the scene.
To begin, the décor and location of this scene was very elaborate. It takes place in the dark halls of the Ministry of Magic. The cold, geometric design of the walls and ceiling give the scene an unwelcoming, fearful feeling. There was also a large banner of the head of the Ministry of Magic, which was torn to pieces later in the scene by Voldemort’s magic. This created the only sense of humor in the scene; the head of the Ministry did not believe that Voldemort was alive again, yet Voldemort was destroying his building. The lighting in this scene was also extremely important. Even though the décor and location was dark, the actors could be seen clearly because of the light that was shone on them. Voldemort’s baldhead, for example, shone brightly due to the light cast on it. Another great use of lighting was seen during the color change of the duel. When Voldemort created the fire snake, for example, there was a bright, daunting red light that shone on all of the characters. And when Dumbledore cast the great wave upon Voldemort there was a very light and calm blue light that permeated the room. According to the article “The Fifteen Points of Mise-en-scene,” color really can symbolize meaning in a scene; and that was definitely the case in this Harry Potter scene. The calmer, blue colors that came from Dumbledore symbolized good, while Voldemort’s bold, daunting red symbolized evil.
Next was my favorite aspect of the scene: the use of space. There were many close-ups of the actors, allowing the audience to really catch a glimpse of how the characters were dealing with the situation. There were also many instances where one character would be close and in full focus, and then action would be happening off to the side or behind the character in focus. This happened when Harry was crouched to the ground and close to the camera, and then off to the left the exhilarating duel between the two wizards could also be seen. This character placement, mentioned in the article “The Fifteen Points of Mise-en-scene”, created a very dynamic visual, and made it especially exciting because the audience is lead to wonder how Harry will react to the duel.
The costumes of the characters played a role in the scene as well. It could be seen by his draping black robe that Voldemort was pure evil. Dumbledore, on the other hand, was dressed in his neat, lightly colored wizard robes. As mentioned in the Yale mis-en-scene article, differences in costume allow the viewers to make clear distinctions between characters. In this scene it is easy to distinguish between evil and good by looking at the characters’ costumes. Next, Harry was not dressed in a wizard’s robe, but rather in normal teenage clothing: a shirt, a sweatshirt, and jeans. Perhaps the filmmakers wanted Harry to seem more relatable to normal teenagers in this scene. Bellatrix was also in this scene, towards the beginning, and it was obvious to the audience that she was pure evil from her black, rag-like dress and frizzled hair.
Last, but not least, is the most vital aspect of the scene: the acting. The scene would not even be possible if it were not for the actors. In my opinion, all of the actors highly resemble the characters in JK Rowling’s novel. Helena Bonham Carter, for example, plays the role of Bellatrix perfectly. Perhaps it is because Carter has played several roles in which the women were evil that she is able to play the role of Bellatrix so well. And her features, such as her frizzy, curly hair and bloodthirsty grin, contribute to her performance as well. It is also likely that Michael Gambon was specifically chosen for the role of Dumbledore, since he looks like the old, wise wizard that Dumbledore is (just a beard has to be added). Voldemort and Harry then portrayed their roles extremely well. Perhaps that is because they have been playing those roles for so long (even though this was only the second film in which Voldemort appeared).
Overall, the various aspects of this scene really contribute to its overall feeling. There is suspense, which is heightened by the red and blue lighting; there is fear, which is seen by the close ups and off to the side action; and there is evil, which is seen by the darkness of the room and from the villains’ costumes.
Link to scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWpHRwkBLUo
My Own Fantasy Film: Short Story
“Jerry and the Magic Mac”
It was 4 o’clock a.m. and Jerry was sitting tensely in front of his MacBook Pro, the light of the screen exposing the heavy, black bags under his eyes. Jerry was exhausted, but he knew he had to finish his ten-page paper. Jerry had downed a monster drink and a five-hour energy around 1 o’clock, but unfortunately for Jerry the effects of those drinks were already beginning to wear off. Realizing he only had roughly four more hours to work on his paper, Jerry begin typing frantically, not minding the numerous errors and typos he was making.
Jerry knew that his paper was not going well. In a moment of despair Jerry said to his Mac computer, “Oh please help me! I can’t finish this! Can’t you do it?” Jerry then laughed at his desperation and the fact that he asked a computer to do his essay. Jerry thought that he was really losing his mind; computers are not real and they definitely cannot talk back.
Jerry then made another attempt at working on his paper, but his eyelids were becoming as heaving as concrete and the room was becoming blurrier by the moment. All of a sudden the room was spinning, and then everything was white. Jerry blinked for a millisecond and when he opened his eyes he was in a whole other world. Jerry found himself sitting on a lush patch of bright green grass, surrounded by tall colorful trees that looked like they were transported right out of a Dr. Seuss book. The sky was filled with fluffy, purple clouds and there was a warm breeze in the air.
“What is this place?” Jerry thought to himself. Even though he had to finish his paper, he was thoroughly enjoying the relaxing atmosphere of this other world. Perhaps he could just live in this other world forever and not worry about his paper.
“Hello, Jerry,” said a quite little voice behind a bright blue shrub.
“Who’s there?” Jerry replied.
“It’s me Jerry, your Mac!” replied the little laptop as it floated out from the shrub. Jerry could not believe what he was seeing. Computers do not talk.
“Don’t worry about your paper, Jerry. Just relax in this world and all your troubles will go away,” said the tiny Mac. Even though Jerry was in awe that his computer was talking to him, he went along with what it said. Who wouldn’t want to relax and forget about papers?
Abruptly, a loud, obnoxious alarm rang, bringing Jerry back into the real world and out of his dream. “Wait… It was just a dream?! It’s 8 o’clock and my paper is not finished!” Jerry exclaimed. In a scurry to finish his paper, Jerry opened up the word document on his Mac, but then found that his paper was finished! There was not even one typo!
“I should talk to you more often!” Jerry said with a smile to his glowing, little Mac.