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Ruth Sylvestre

"Finding Neverland and Expressionism"

By: Ruth Sylvestre
College Now Course - HUM 1

Dancing bears, magical bedrooms, and indoor thunderstorms are some of the expressionistic scenes portrayed in the movie Finding Neverland (2004). The film Finding Neverland, directed by Marc Forster, captures the essence of expressionism and represents it wonderfully in the form of film media. In this movie, a young man by the name of James Barrie brings the gift of imagination to the Davies family. As James spends more time with the family, he becomes inspired to write the outstanding play, "Peter Pan." The main characters in this film are the protagonist and famous writer Sir James Matthew Barrie, a widow and single mother, Slyvia Llewelyn Davies, and her 4 children: Jack, George, Peter, and Michael.

In the beginning of the movie, the viewer is introduced to a crowded theater full of a rich audience of doctors, lawyers, and other individuals of higher class. As the play began to get underway, the audience grew a little restless as they found the play to be boring. A woman shakes her head in disapproval, an elderly man turns to his neighbor to discuss other things, and another falls asleep. The restless movement in the theater was evident to James and causes him to imagine a thunderstorm over the audience to express their mood. Such a scene is expressionistic because it is unusual, even in today's world, to have a rainstorm inside a grand theater showering the audience. Instead of using words, Marc Forster provided a visual to interpret the general mood of the audience. This scene is kind of similar to the story, Metamorphosis by Frantz Kafka. In Metamorphosis, the protagonist, Gregor Samsa, wakes up one morning to find himself in the body of a bug. Kafka portrayed Gregor Samsa as a bug to illustrate Gregor's emotions and how emotionally isolated he felt. Both Gregor's metamorphosis and the small scene from Finding Neverland had to do with expression emotion.

Another scene in the movie that illustrated expressionism was when James and his wife, Mary Ansell Barrie went up the stairs to bed after hosting a special dinner with the Davies. While Mary's door led to an ordinary bedroom, James's bedroom door led to an imaginary land that had a blue sky and trees. This small scene portrayed James' state of mind. It symbolizes the fact that James is always imagining and pretending that he is in an enchanted world. This scene is similar to the painting, The Scream, by the Norwegian painter, Edward Munch. The Scream illustrates Munich's state of mind. Forster uses the blue sky and trees to illustrate how James' state of mind is constantly full of imagination, while Munich uses anti-naturalistic shapes and colors to portray his lonely/isolated mind.

Lastly, another scene in this film that illustrated expressionism was the piece of entertainment James performed for the Davies upon his first encounter with them. Attempting to convince young Peter that his dog wasn't "just a dog," James walked over to his dog and started to dance with him. As he danced, the park scenery changed and demonstrated James dancing with a literal bear in what appears to be a circus. The audience in this circus surprisingly turned out to be flat paintings of figures observing the display. As James continues to dance with the bear, clowns arose and started to dance with each other around him. The painted audience soon changed into an elegant ballroom full of dancing clowns. This vivid illustration of James's imagination portrays expressionism. Once again, Forster wants the character to communicate spiritually and physically with the viewer. He wants the viewer to feel the imagination and take part in it.

The movie, Finding Neverland creatively illustrates the expressionistic culture of the 1900's. Marc Forster was able to communicate with the viewer using anti-naturalistic visuals of the mind and emotions of James Barrie. These visuals include magical doors, dancing bears, and indoor thunderstorms.