26 July 2011

25. The Wizard of Oz

It's as archtypical of a hero's journey as you'll find, made unique by featuring a female protagonist and a classical Hollywood conservative renewal of our collective values: "there's no place like home", a message we needed after The Great Depression.

1. Ordinary world. Dorothy, an orphan, lives in Kansas, where she feels out of place. What's amazing about this part of movie is that it's a microcosm and a parallel to the later parts: the three workers on the farm rescue her and later become her companions in Oz, conflict with Miss Gluch/The Wicked Witch, and her balancing act on the fence is a metaphor for her adventures. Her desire for adventure is so strong, in fact, that it is manifested through song: "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

2. Call to Adventure. Miss Gluch takes away her dog, so Dorothy runs away.

3. Rufusal of the Call. Professor Marvel, a mentor, tells her her journey is fraught with danger, and uses magic to show her that her Auntie Em is sick.

4. Meeting with the Mentor. She's already met with Professor Marvel, but immediately upon being swept away (the power of her emotions and desire for change and adventure have taken her all the way to a new world), she meets a new one: Glinda, the good witch, a new mentor for a new land. Glinda lays out the rules of the new world.

5. Crossing the first threshold. The storm takes her away from Kansas, the bland, black and white "home" she is tired of, and into Oz, a magical land that's even in color. This transition to color works wonders for two reasons: one, because it does come at an important structural point and two, because it is a technical showoff but in service of the story. It is similar to the steadicam shot in ROCKY, wherein Rocky runs up the steps of the museum and we circle around him, showing no dolly tracks. That worked because it signaled Rocky's accomplishment of conquering his loneliness -- he'd beaten the city -- and it also came at the end of act 2. So: if you want to show off, do it at an act break.

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies. The Yellow Brick Road; The Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion; the flying monkeys, The Wicked Witch and the Wizard.

7. Approach the Cave. They go "off to meet the Wizard", although it is never that easy. Toto escapes again, the Wicked Witch writes a warning in the sky, Guardians protect the Wizard's castle.

8. The Ordeal. The hero must face death and defy it. The Wicked Witch has Dorothy and her sidekicks tied up, and Dorothy simply throws water on her, melting her.

9. Reward. For killing the evil Witch, Dorothy gets her broomstick. She presents it to the Wizard, who is enraged at having his bluff called. Like he did before with Gulch's garden, Toto uproots the illusion of the Wizard's power. He's really an old man, not any more powerful than anyone else. And yet, he offers further rewards: a diploma, a medal, a heart. But these are placebos for their real desires. Fake it till you make it.

10. The Road Back. This is the third act. They prepare a hot air balloon. Because of Toto, is goes off without Dorothy. She is not yet ready to return, has not fully grasped her own lesson.

11. Resurrection. The Good Witch returns, tells her the secret of the ruby slippers.

12. Return with Elixir. She taps her heels, returns home. Whether or not it was "real", her elixir was the lesson she learned: "There's no place like home."


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