Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The BFG: Bildungsromans for Generations

Tonight we went to the theatre to see The BFG. This Disney adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel was directed by Steven Spielberg. We arrived at the theatre just minutes before the movie was to begin and people were lined up all the way out the door, as it was "cheap night." We were relieved that the show wasn't sold out and made it in just as the previews were starting. I suppose we needn't have worried about getting a good seat, as there were maybe a dozen people in the theatre. I guess everyone else was lining up for The Secret Life of Pets or something. There was no question what show we wanted to see tonight, though. My daughter (10), and son (8) are big Roald Dahl fans.

In the spring my mother gave the children a box set of Roald Dahl books and they have been devouring them ever since. At first my son was a little scandalized ("Mom do you know there is swearing in these books--and they're for kids?!"). He has now read almost all of them. I recommended saving Solo and Boy until he is a little older. The three of us read Esio Trot together. Who knew that kids would love a romantic story about two senior citizens and tortoises? That is the magic of Roald Dahl.

So in anticipation of the movie coming out this summer the children both read the BFG at least twice. I didn't get a chance to read it again myself. The kids would ask me what I thought of this part, or did I remember what happened in that chapter. It is then that it happened; I became my mother. I said those fateful words, "I don't remember, I read that book like thirty years ago!" I always thought it was the strangest thing when my mother would say that. What do you mean you don't remember every detail of some awesome book you read in childhood? How could you possibly be so old that you were reading books thirty years ago anyway? And I realized, oh my, I am old. The wonderful thing about stories though, is that while you might not remember every detail, a good story will stay with you, if only in impressions, and in the way it makes you feel. And that is something I remember thirty years later; I remember the way The BFG made me feel. I remember the humour, the suspense, the adventure and wonder.

In the theatre tonight, I realized that my children are also becoming me, in a sense. They would lean over to whisper, "That's different from the book." That is a particular habit of mine. It wasn't a typical Disney movie. It had a slower pace. There was a lot of dialogue. It was sentimental and really quite lovely. When it was over we watched the credits as everyone else filed out of the theatre. I was shocked to discover that mine had been the only children in the room. I can only guess the other movie-goers were people like me, who read the book decades ago and remembered the way it made them feel.

It was past bedtime when we got home, but I poured us all milk and started to get out a snack. My daughter was in hysterics. I couldn't figure out what was going on until she pointed out I had put the milk in the cupboard. I guess I was still in a daze from the movie. We sat in the kitchen and talked about the movie and the book and how they made us feel. My son said that it made him feel excited. He saw it as a great adventure.  I hope they take those feelings, and their love of literature and pass it on to the next generation. Those dog-eared Dahl books have many good reads left in them.