Today I watched Tim Burton’s Big Fish (2003)
From Big Eyes to a Big Fish, this movie focuses on the classic tall tales like how we once caught a fish this big. The film’s real story concerns Edward Bloom and his son Will, the former is dying of cancer while the latter tries to reconnect with him while there is still time. Will doesn’t think he ever knew his father because he was constantly spinning tall tales about catching giant catfish with wedding rings, old witches, giants, and werewolves, and because of this the two had not spoken in years. Will became a journalist in this time and now, during these final days, wants to know the truth. Through it all we, the audience are in the privileged position to witness it all, from the fantasies to the debatable truth.
This father son relationship forms the main thematic thrust of the film, but it is more than two people trying to reconcile their differences, the themes of fantasy give everything a unique twist. The film focuses on how we define ourselves and present ourselves when relaying our life experiences, how much do we embellish and what do those embellishments say about us? In the end everything is true, all our lies or stories reflect on the truth of our identity and our situation in some way, which is as remarkably apt a defense of our propensity for fantasy as ever I have heard.
In contrast to Burton’s usual approach to special effects and imagery, everything here is restrained and subtle. I think Burton wants to stress the plausibility of the story sequences, which he does so nicely. Yet at the same time he keeps a clear distinction between the stories and the real plot; despite all the different threads running through this thing, it is never confusing. Big Fish delivers a nuanced character study through the art of silly stories and tall tales. By doing so illustrates a great point about how we use stories to connect with one another, how that can fail, but ultimately how great it can be. 5/5