Sunday, 29 August 2010

Coca Cola as a Symbol in World Cinema

                      America isn't a single product - it's not Coca Cola

                                                                                        William Rugh

Coca Cola is recognisable the world over, a resilient product and a powerful image. Is it any wonder that it alone survives in Blade Runner's Los Angeles of 2019. Bit by bit its bottles have become empty ciphers to be filled with all kinds of meaning; good, bad and neither. There are plentiful examples of Coca Cola ceasing to mean Coca Cola and turning metonymic for America, for Capitalism, for the quotidian.

Being one of America's most successful brands Coca Cola has been used as an apt stereotyped example of big business. There is a long history of American films that talk of the ills of being a cog in an impersonal commercial wheel and trumpet the joys of returning to a simpler life. Billy Wilder's One, Two, Three (1961) and Dusan Makavejev's The Coca Cola Kid (1985) both concern Coca Cola executives who discover that there is more of value in life than market value.

Coca Cola has long sought to associate itself closely with the United States in the public consciousness and, given Coca Cola's fame, vice versa. This explains the traction of quasi-mythical tales like the one that tells of Coke bottles being smashed on runways to puncture Japanese plane tyres during World War II.

In Superman II it becomes an ally in the American Way, a bright red electronic mitt to catch alien invaders.

Yet Coca Cola has come to represent, in certain films, an invasion of its own - of capitalism, of Western perspectives.
Yasujiro Ozu's Late Spring shows an advertisement as a mark of the arrival of the West in Japan. Shohei Imamura's Profound Desires of the Gods concerns an engineer arriving on an isolated and backward Japanese island to build a well for a sugar mill. A few shots of Coca Cola signs and labels function as shorthand for the arrival of money and of business. A more damning twist comes in The Gods Must be Crazy where a Coca Cola bottle is first worshipped and then fought over. It comes to stand for the idea of property, a foreign virus whose symptoms are jealousy and violence.

Here the commonness of Coca Cola brings humour. In Italian film 7Km from Jerusalem Jesus is shown drinking from a can. This caused much controversy, presumably because the drink is made cheap by its simple, mundane ubiquity. It means normality. It is much the same in Abel Ferrara's Chelsea on the Rocks in which the hero is dying to have a drink of Coke, despite knowing that it will probably kill him. Dr.Strangelove too makes us laugh at the earnest, deadpan pompousness of the general who is reluctant to harm the vending machine:

            "You know what's gonna happen to you?....You're gonna have to answer to the Coca Cola company"

*            *            *

Sometimes it really is seen as representing an invasion that needs to be fought off, a viewpoint summed up here by a Mexican painter, as well as two highly-regarded directors:

                  "This brand is for me a symbol of a new aggression and so we have Coca Cola Cinema and music, Coca Cola architecture, Coca Cola graphics and art"

                                                                 Chavez Murado

                  "The World is not only bright lights, this hectic pace, the Coca Cola with a straw, the new car"

                                                                  Krzysztof Kieslowski

                  "People cease to feel any need for the beautiful or the spiritual and consume films like bottles of Coca Cola"

                                                                   Andrei Tarkovsky

There is the perception of an arrogance, a bullying in an American imperialism under the Coca Cola banner. The Italian animated film Allegro Non Troppo has the process of evolution begin in a Coca Cola bottle, gently mocking perceived American solipsism - 'the world begins and ends on our shores'. The irony is that Allegro Non Troppo is based on American classic Fantasia, betraying the fact that those who criticise are willing to consume if only to spit it out again.

Emptiness and consumption, then. Indeed, in Robert Bresson's Le Diable, Probablement a gaggle of empty Coke bottles sitting on the floor represent disposability, empty lives and emptiness itself:

     "All I've got left is an old sweater and the Coke bottles to take back"

In other words, nothing. Many films use Coca Cola to symbolise emptiness and cheapness, a lack of refinement and "culture" (meant as culture deemed positive and nourishing, as you cannot lack culture).

 Le Diable, Probablement

However, the arrival of an American, Western culture is not always slanted towards the negative or the pejorative. Its striking bright red banner and its iconic bottle, used as a cigarette-like prop, retains a certain kudos and cool, much as the glamour of Old Hollywood - take Wong Kar Wai's Days of Being Wild as an example.

To go still further the massive Coca Cola banner unfurled on the side of a building in Goodbye Lenin! is a sign of the fall of Communism and in Peter Wang's A Great Wall (in which a Chinese child is promised a Coke bottle for completing his exams) we realise that the cultures are closer than we first thought.

Yes, some film-makers may want to reject what they think Coca Cola stands for but they embrace it too because they are a product of their times as much as anyone else: "Children of Marx and Coca Cola", as Jean-Luc Godard says in Masculin, Feminin.

Goodbye Lenin!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Jeanne La Pucelle, Jacques Rivette

Jeanne La Pucelle is a work of abundant light and luxurious space. Light before the sunset, the light of noon, natural light. Like all of Jacques Rivette's films it is airy, cool and elegant.*

The act of observing the slow passing of time and people in Jeanne La Pucelle is almost indistinguishable from that of observing them outside the walls of the theatre. This is because there is space enough within the story's stage for us to set up camp. Neither hurried nor ponderous, we are always ready to follow when we need to follow and wait when we need to wait.


The trembling voice of the Dauphin. Deep remorse for lewd thoughts. Bravery in battle. Like the wind the Maid is made visible in the reactions of those around her.

At first those that she meets are disdainful, confused and maybe a little afraid of her. It is her certainty, her faith in God and her unaffected humility that perturbs them, the same qualities that will eventually give them hope and reason to believe. The men around her are waiting. It is they, under siege and despondent, who pray and trust to providence. It is Jeanne who acts and offers herself as the instrument of God's work. She has a purpose and a plan. She wakes them from their lethargy, assuring them that the impasse between English and French forces can be broken.

Although she gets on well with the men, she is withdrawn. She prays in solitude and meditates within a faraway gaze. The sounds of earthly life are (figuratively) interpolated by the notes of a heavenly choir like the strains of Dvorak and Bach, the voice of God, obscured the noisy squeaks of a basketball court in Jean-Luc Godard's Hail Mary. Jeanne needs time to think:

   The fact is I know what I must do and sometimes I don't know how to do it

Whilst Sandrine Bonnaire's splendid performance tell us much of Jeanne, she retains a kernel of mystery. How many films would blur secondary characters to hold the heroine in sharper focus? Not here. It is rare for so many characters to become so familiar to us and so dear (diaristic entries to camera very cleverly break up the film, bring us closer to the people and elide the more mundane milestones) but in Jeanne La Pucelle they are so distinct and interesting that Jeanne's farewells feel like ours too.

All great tales shock us with the memory of their beginning, appearing so hazily on the horizon behind us that we cannot believe we were ever there. It isn't the length of the film, or the miles we cover on foot and on horseback but the people we travel with that make it into a journey.

Jeanne has a smile in her eyes that reflects both the tranquility of the divine and the unfettered amusement of a normal girl. Challenged by the highest authorities on the most profound theological matters, we still find her  swinging her legs and erupting into infectious laughter. She says that she has been sent by God, in harmony with the angels and the saints, for a special reason. She is quicker to say that she is not special. Little miracles, like the changing of the wind (above) are undemonstratively revealed. The sacrifices she makes are that of a good person who brings the good out in others (below). The women are particularly excited to be in the presence of someone they consider holy but is also a woman playing a powerful role in a man's world.


It is this reasoned passion and her humble (but in some ways, paradoxically, irreverent) devotion which shake the foundations of the Church. The Priests and the Bishops who scrutinise her, interrogate her and abuse her fear that the Devil may be in her. They despise her 'blasphemy'. Most importantly she is an enemy to their (privileged) position. As a warrior she endangers their truce with England; as a woman who refuses to submit to inferiority she pricks their bloated bigotry; as a believer who communicates intimately and directly with God she bypasses their authority and stirs their jealousies.
Their holy vestments are soiled with the grubbiest of mortal sin. They are the devils who tempt her, the men who prey upon her**:

                               You are trying very hard to seduce me

Once the Dauphin has been crowned at Reims (as she promised he would be) in a magnificent and sombre spectacle clipped from a medieval tapestry, her fate, we sense, is set and prefigured:

She no longer receives guidance from her voices, leading her into error and leaving her vulnerable to capture. The time she spends in prison is terrible. She is chained to a bed, abused, and men attempt to rape her. She renounces her crimes - one of the most heinous is to wear her hair like a man, something that visibly tickles her - because she is terrified of being burnt. In her mind she is branded by the weakness of her conviction, branded by her "peur du feu". And yet she gains the strength to no longer betray her faith.

She is tied to the stake, ghostly pale, deathly afraid. The fire burns her flesh but cannot touch her faith. She says "Jesus" once, twice, three times. The suffering is now too intense and she screams "Jesus!" and the screen goes black. With the placement of this black screen, Rivette transfigures evil. He turns the victory of death into the mercy of God: He has released her.***

* I know that it is dangerous to pigeon-hole artists. Once a film-maker's oeuvre has been pressed into a mould, the excess that doesn't fit the narrative can be scraped off and thrown away. For example Jacques Rivette's films are almost unanimously called playful, magical, puzzling and theatrical. It is hard not to go with the pattern you have spotted or the flow of the criticism one has read and subconsciously fit the film around it.

** The only bothersome aspect of the film is that the 'evil' characters are made to look stereotypically evil - drawn, scowling eyes, harsh features, disfigurements. Typage is rife throughout cinema but these choices are out of keeping with the rest of Jeanne La Pucelle.

*** The humanity of this final moment reminds me of a beautiful comment left on YouTube under the final scene of Twin Peaks : Fire Walk With Me by amcint01:

Movies can be made for people, places or events, but rarely do people make them for a character. The movie is for Laura Palmer, plain and simple.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Re-watching The Phantom Menace

Although I had seen and liked the original Star Wars trilogy on television, my appreciation for the series grew with the release of the prequel trilogy and The Phantom Menace. I now consider Star Wars, taken as a whole, to be one of the greatest achievements in Cinema. However, we are often hardest on the things we admire the most because we want them to be as good as they possibly can be. Re-watching The Phantom Menace I found myself disappointed and even dismayed by aspects of it...

Each of the Star Wars films takes its tonal cue from the age of its protagonist. With Luke in A New Hope a similar age to Anakin in Revenge of the Sith, the throughline from the plains of Naboo to the forests of Endor is of increasing maturity and psychological depth.

The Phantom Menace is thus the lightest and most childlike instalment of the saga. Its characters are simply drawn and often simple-minded, from the naive Viceroy to Jar Jar Binks and the Gungans. The Phantom Menace has a  wide-eyed, four foot high point of view far removed from the meaty complications of the Original Trilogy. The narration of the TV Spot One Friend perfectly captures that gentle mood:

 Sometimes the one that's clumsy, different or even a 
little strange just might be the friend you're looking for

It is important to remember that Anakin is on the outside looking in and that our protagonist has yet to take the reins of his destiny or of the film itself.

Therefore, although the world, tonally, is filtered through Anakin's eyes, The Phantom Menace doesn't really help us identify with him narratively or emotionally. In A New Hope Luke's dreams, and the story, are propelled by the discovery of his family's charred remains. In The Phantom Menace Anakin's dreams of going with the Jedi are fuelled by a wish to escape slavery. Yet his slavery is a korma slavery, meek and mild. I understand that this is a hard subject to deal with within a film targeted at a universal audience but Anakin's successive enslavement to Watto, to Jedi rules and to the whims of the Emperor should have been one of the most powerful unifying themes of the saga. The tighter the chains, the more force needed to break out. By underplaying and understating his family's circumstances and the impact this has on his character, the potential of this angle is frittered away.

Luke left out of revenge, ambition, necessity. To all intents and purposes Anakin leaves out of boredom and curiosity. With a lack of emotional thrust, the film struggles to recover dynamism. It does, but slowly.

For all its superficial visual splendour and raw kinetic energy, watching The Phantom Menace again it is surprising how little excitement comes from the plot itself. The film simply does not work sufficiently well either as a stand-alone feature or as the first of a series. It functions only as a fourth episode, as an extended flashback. It is over-reliant on knowledge of what is going to happen to gain momentum in the here and now. It borrows from the future, a debt that compromises its integrity. The information within these films is of the sort that could have formed appendices to the Originals, much as the explanatory addenda in the back of an epic novel.

So Anakin is going to be a Jedi? So what, we could say, if we do not know what a giant leap such a small step will imply. Would I want to see the second episode, unaware of episodes IV to VI, when The Phantom Menace's cliffhanger is as underwhelming as: PEEAACE!! In reality The Phantom Menace has little cluster plots that appear and must be resolved, but no true arc - because its arc only touches down in Revenge of the Sith. Can this film stand up in a few decades time if one comes fresh to the Saga?

The very first sentence that begins the title crawl is a build-up to instant anticlimax:

          Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute.

George Lucas's subtlety (charting the rise of a dictatorship over seven hours) comes at the expense of instant gratification.

The original films took inspiration from many sources. The prequels do too but they take too much inspiration from the Star Wars films themselves.The Phantom Menace is creatively constrained, in-bred, sporadically resembling a holographic ghost on a digitised Star Wars stage. The narrative is perfunctory, joining too many dots to get to its pre-arranged destination. Early scenes are very short, rushed like infobites. At times it is short on ideas, even repeating the visual gag of "a bigger fish" rescuing our heroes. Suffocated by a lack of energy, the dialogue and the acting suffer.

An inherent danger and temptation of prequels is to tinker with or dissect the work for which you are, essentially, providing a foundation. It is also a danger to want to gain credit for the intelligence behind a magic trick. The most contentious of all decisions taken by George Lucas was to 'explain' the nature of The Force.  Long-term admirers of the Saga may have felt as appalled as C3PO at the kind of damaging demystification that it appeared to crystallise: "My parts are showing!?" In fact Midichlorians, the symbiotic organisms that Qui-Gon says live inside of us, only explain our receptiveness to The Force, leaving the ultimate mystery just that: unsullied and immaculate. Yet I think it is a mistake to even begin to explain it, to intrude on the fringes of sacred ground. It took too long for a character to ask the questions Anakin asks but, in fantasy, an audience's ignorance is bliss.

*    *    *

Computer Generated Imagery is used extensively in The Phantom Menace. Hackneyed as it is to say it, it lacks weight. It's not quibbling - the significance of special effects goes far beyond mere window-dressing. Weight gives a sense of scale, one of Star Wars' great atouts. Scale is the seedbed for scope and an awareness of the importance of what is happening. Without these things in place it is harder for an audience to grab onto the world and its stories.

In past Star Wars episodes superimposition might have been inadequate and scales distorted but the elements were real. They could be touched by our minds. It isn't a matter of looking real but, in whatever way,  being real - a matte painting, a miniature, a model.

There is nothing that can be imagined that cannot be presented, with effort, care and ingenuity, in front of the camera. That said, Watto's furiously flapping wings must have been a blessing on those sweltering Tunisian summers.

*   *   *

Star Wars has always been bloodless - cauterised wounds, Jedi vanishing into their cloaks when they die - and, aside from the cloud of red that bursts from Darth Maul's halved body, The Phantom Menace, a young person's film, may be the most anaemic of all: droids that offer no resistance and a space battle that proves to be child's play. The Phantom Menace is also blinkered to the world outside of the mission's immediate battlefield. It is difficult to imagine that "the death toll is catastrophic" as a Naboo official tells us, when the ordinary lives on the ground are either not shown or shown chiefly untouched. Where are the bodies, the ruins, the refugees? For all we know the Clone Wars of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith are no more than a firework display on Coruscant's night sky.

So little time is spent elaborating the supposed suppression suffered by the galaxy under the Emperor's rule, the sort of oppression that would warrant the outpouring of glee at the conclusion of Return of the Jedi. Our milieu is that of generals and power-brokers but it would have been better to ground the film in the compassion that is the cornerstone of Jedi teaching.

George Lucas is keen on echoing historical and political movements and revolutions but from an academic, detached point of view that borders, ironically, on the autocratic. 

*      *      *

And yet, art appreciation is not an exact science. The Phantom Menace has things wrong with it. It could have been better. I love watching it. There is no but in between. I love R2D2's beeps. I love the revelation of Padme's identity to Boss Nass (she is a handmaiden in a Queen's outfit, not the other way around). I love the glorious Gaudi Art Nouveau of the Gunga City's pearl-like world. I love the exquisite Renaissance domes of Theed. I love the Hindu inspired statues half-buried in the undergrowth. I love that the aural text is so evocative that it can stand in for the whole world. I love the eye-popping delectable miasma of speed and colour. I love the droid army's approach over the crest of a hill under a blue cloud-flecked sky, growling with corruptive power, resuscitating Kurosawa's Ran. I love how the light sprinkles over the Lucasfilm logo. I love the architecture of the lightsaber battle, the red force fields, the low hums, the black gleaming amphitheatre and its pupil's abyss. I love how the humblest are exalted and how humbling oneself leads to salvation. I love how Padme, and Natalie Portman, feels so perfectly like Luke and Leia's mother. I love the podrace, even if it goes on too long. I love the pause for breath and for silence once the crawl has faded away. I love the details and the thrill that has gone into its making, that there is not a corner of the canvas unmarked. I love Darth Maul's unexpected, extraordinary entrance, unveiled behind a blast door curtain, evil daubed on his face. I love how droids are unloaded as foetal Airfix kits. I love how the worldly-wise Qui-Gon Jinn is so willing to use his powers to con Watto. I love the sun-baked shades of sand and rock on Tatooine. And yes, I love The Phantom Menace because it enriches its ancestor offspring.

Regardless of everything, even in the weakest moments of the film when I see that the band is not playing, I can still hear the music.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Disturbing Moments in Film

The following is a small selection of the most disturbing moments I have seen. Fear, empathy, revelations and troubling implications, being disturbed is more than a shock - it strikes at the core.

Pulse - Fade to Black

A girl fades to black and tumbles into a swarm of ash. Pulse is about a disconnected and rootless generation through whom despair has grown viral. This heartbreaking image, one of many in this excellent film, shows a generation of Japanese lost not to exterior forces but interior ones.

Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me and Halloween
Hiding in Plain View

What is worse than a tormentor so oblivious and unconcerned with their own position as to hide in plain view? They tease, taunt, and mock us. They have only one thing on their minds - to cause us suffering.

Akasen Chitai/Street of Shame - The New Girl

In the final shot of Kenji Mizoguchi's story of a brothel, a young debutante prostitute peers out onto the streets for the first time. She tries meekly to attract a man, terrified at the same time that she might. 

Paprika - Removing her skin

Osanai pins Paprika (Chiba's dreamworld persona) to a table, thrusts his hand into her and violently tears away her skin -  revealing a naked Chiba beneath. It is a hellish image of rape. One thinks of how vulnerable reality is once it has been stripped nude of fantasy.

The Exorcist - Regan undergoes an operation

It is excruciating to share Regan's pain and her mother's anguish as the surgeons try to alleviate the symptoms of her possession. These scenes are so much more impactful than the lavishly choreographed fury that overtakes the climax, where Regan is lost in the eye of a storm.

Titus - Lavinia's agony

We come across Lavinia who has been raped and mutilated, her tongue cut out. Now she has only twigs where her hands once were. It is a type of crucifixion. The tragedy, where Lavinia is returned to a barbaric, natural, inhuman state, inspires great pity.

Paperhouse - Taking a photo

Anna remembers / dreams of taking a photo of her father. Cheerily he poses for her on the rocks only to suddenly jerk forward with a ghastly expression that sends a shudder trembling through the film.

Alien3 - Scan

A corruption of the intimacy and nurturing pleasures of motherhood. Ripley scans herself, afraid that she may have been impregnated by an alien. In a twitching, frozen and grey image lies her worst nightmare. She will give birth to a monster.

City of Lost Children - So many Santas

A santa comes down a young boy's chimney, as he watches mesmerised from his cot. Slowly, with the screen wobbling and distorting, the Father Christmases keep on appearing through the door and the window. You can have too much of a good thing.

Showgirls - Farewell and Hello

Leaving Las Vegas exploiter and exploited, Nomi embraces her cheap and sleazy existence in return for fame and a dubious "success". Never has the road to Los Angeles been so dispiriting. In a marvellous coup, Paul Verhoeven makes Hollywood the punchline of a sick joke.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Bridge to Terabithia

Teenager Jess has problems at school and problems at home. They don't ruin his life but they do make him unhappy. Then one day a new girl, Leslie, joins his class and, with her bright artistic personality, reignites his passion for drawing and his sense of belonging.

Out beyond the back of their two houses she introduces him to Terabithia, a world of miniature flying soldiers and hairy beasts that battle within the woods.* Is it real or is it imaginary? Whilst we never know for sure the assumption is that it comes from within - you must close your eyes and then open them as if for the first time.

Is Terabithia and what goes on there symbolic of anything?**

It's pretty clear that Leslie and Jess are creative kids who love to jump head first into stories. Even if their lives were perfect, storytelling and exploration would be a part of them. Having said that, while there is no crude equivalence between their normal lives and their play worlds, Leslie and Jess' vivid imaginations are a testing ground for challenges that need to be faced and decisions that need to be taken in real life.

The first images of drawings flying over the countryside are an indication that the two planes co-exist rather than mirror each other.

There are, nevertheless, one or two parallels, and maybe it is hard not to see them. Leslie and Jess' families are distant and therefore they withdraw too. Leslie's parents are writers and spend all their time squirreled away. Jess and his father's relationship is stuck in a rut and they seem able to communicate only with coldness and resentment.

At school they are outcasts. The rest of their class shuns them. Jess is bullied because he is poorer than the others and Leslie is picked on because of her odd style and devil-may-care spunk. The reasons for the bullying may seem a little weak, dramatically, but it really helps to show that bullying is always fundamentally unfair. There should never appear to be a good reason to bully.

In Terabithia the two children can make their own home.

They are free to develop and grow in Terabithia. It is hard for them to mature running up against the constraints of class politics or awkward family life. Away from the glare of the big world they can begin to be who they want to be and who they are meant to be.

The two kids (on their way to becoming adults) relish their adventures, with the greatest adventure of all being their time getting to know each other. As Leslie waves goodbye in the rain, we can see Jess stop and stare and begin to smile. Has he fallen in love?

Bridge to Terabithia, as successfully as any other film, shows the spectrum of a young man's reactions towards girls and women. He has an overwhelming crush on his music teacher whilst a deeper, stronger affection grows between him and Leslie. Leslie, who shares his interests, and protects his sister Maybelle, is best seen, I think, not as a friend or a girlfriend but as both - a soulmate.

These characters are believable. Their conversation about God and religion, which could have been clumsy, is the kind of conversation any child might have. Jess and Maybelle believe in God but dislike his violent side while Leslie doesn't believe but finds the Bible "interesting" and "beautiful". She judges religion purely as a story. The dialogue is naive (in the same way as naive painting) and wise and says an awful lot in a short time.

We are used to hearing about "wholesome" entertainment where wholesome is implied to be the absence of something: obscenity or crassness or perversion. Bridge to Terabithia's wholesomeness is positive. It isn't watered down. It has honesty. A soapy musical montage here or a lingering dreamy look there may grate but this is the kind of optimistic outlook on life that is neither silly nor empty-headed.

   *       *       *

There is a tragedy that takes place in the film that knocks the stuffing out of you. Whilst Jess is visiting a museum with his music teacher - a trip he decided not to invite Leslie on - Leslie dies. She dies off-screen and we never see her again. There is suddenly a hole in the middle of the film where its heart was. Jess is bereft.

Films and television shows about young people mourning are few and far between. Grief is a problem for writers because it lingers. They see their storylines and their audiences as needing a quick changeover or a neat resolution. This grief is thus accelerated and expelled in a grand cathartic gesture because "it's time to say goodbye" and to "move on with your life". There is an element of this in Bridge to Terabithia (Jess floating a drawing of Leslie along the river in a toy boat) but the hole that she has left behind is never filled. It does linger with him and with us.

The film puts an accent on routine, especially the routine bus journeys to and from school. The film doesn't elide these moments in order to cut to Terabithia or to the classroom. Six times we see the three characters arrive home and get off the bus (there are eight scenes that take place on the bus). The seventh time Leslie isn't with them. That last time, because the established routine is broken, Leslie not being there hits us even harder.

In the most beautiful scene, that shows how Leslie opens Jess' heart and mind, she reads about her scuba diving. She comes alive as she tells the story and, as she does, Jess is able to imagine it all. She makes him see the fish of the ocean and, in a foretaste of her death (she drowns in the river that borders both worlds), bubbles rising from her mouth. I wondered to myself whether there is a better mix of the real and the fantastical than love.

* The good thing about what we are shown of Terabithia is that we see little of their fantasies (if that is what they are) and it is left up to our imagination too to fill in the blanks. There is a scene where Jess and Leslie are taken up in the claws of a couple of evil-looking birds which is especially effective because the birds are actually there. They are puppets.

**Orson Welles, in F For Fake, makes fun of our wish to read something meaningful into every little thing when he performs a magic trick with a key and some coins. He ends it saying that the key "is not symbolic of anything".