Mar 6, 2013

Hit Me With Your Best Oz

Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Nathaniel's magnificent weekly blog-a-thon is back over at The Film Experience. If you're reading this but not participating, I'd take a moment to persuade you to do otherwise. More is always merrier when it comes to projects like these and this one in particular is always full of goodies. Join in the fun!

Season Four starts with Victor Fleming's timeless classic, The Wizard of Oz, which provides an abundance of options partly because of subtly shifting undercurrents in the way its photography highlights characters, but chiefly because of the fantastical beauty that Dorothy and Toto encounter in Munchkinland and Oz. I could have gone for any of the sequences in Oz's castle and I hesitated on the sepia-tinged sequence where Dorothy's Kansas home twists and turns up in the air as the tornado takes her to Munchkinland too, but in the end I settled for the shot that almost immediately succeeds it.

When her house lands on the ground, Dorothy, naturally confused as to where she can find her family, gets up from her bed and opens the door to encounter a psychedelically technicolor-ed garden of magical plants and buildings. The color vs. sepia boundary is obviously non-diegetic and meant to emphasize Dorothy's distance from home, but Judy Garland's childlike wonderment at her surroundings makes the audience second guess whether she didn't actually live in a mysteriously sepia Kansas.

The camera shows us Munchkinland from Dorothy's perspective - over her shoulder, to be precise - but then it cranes upward and right as it gradually reveals more of what had Dorothy starry-eyed in wonder: a collection of pint-sized houses draped in flowers, with an ethereal river running under a bridge and the famous spiraling yellow brick road right at the center. The camera turns completely to come back to Dorothy's face as she takes in the scenery. It's a setting that looks oddly, and deliberately, synthetic; grandiose, but paradoxically small. But these curiosities only make Munckinland look more magical. We, the audience, look at it with the same sense of awe that Garland does.

"Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."


  1. It's so amazing to me how much power this scene has. still to this day. even though it's influenced so many films and "reveals"... but i think you're right that it's the combo of deliberate artifice and Garland's absolute belief.

  2. That's an interesting observation about Dorothy's awe. It really does make you wonder if she actually did live in a sepia-toned Kansas. Nice choice.

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