Cannes Film Festival: The BFG

Out of Competition
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Starring Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement and Rebecca Hall

by Joanna Orland

One of the world’s most beloved directors has adapted the work of one of the most beloved children’s authors as Steven Spielberg presents Roald Dahl’s The BFG.  Premiering at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the classic tale of the Big Friendly Giant and his friendship with a young orphan girl named Sophie is brought to life in a highly sophisticated way, with the excellent craftsmanship you always get with a Spielberg film.  Sadly, this cinematic mastery is likely lost on children, the primary audience for this rendition of The BFG story.  And lacking the multilayered substance required in a children’s film for it to translate into enjoyment for adults, it’s rather hard to decipher exactly who this film has been made for.

Craftsmanship is at the film’s core.  The giants are rendered with sophistication, every detailed line and movement on their faces brought to life with visual artistry of the highest calibre.  The performances are masterful as Oscar and Olivier Award winning actor Mark Rylance brings a gravitas to the role of the BFG as though he were performing Shakespeare.  Even the subtlest expressions on the digitally enhanced BFG’s face evokes an emotional impact as Rylance is a master of his art, no matter what material he is given to work with.  The supporting cast are also giving their finest performances, including Jemaine Clement as child-eating giant Fleshlumpeater, who breaks from his usual comedic style to bring an authenticity and genuine meanness to this villain.  While Rylance gives the weightiest performance of the film, it is Penelope Wilton’s stint as The Queen herself which steals the show – it is an absolute delight to watch these scenes unfold on screen.  In fact, it is these scenes with Wilton in which the film begins to unravel its layers for the adults in the audience to get a glimpse of enjoyment, albeit these scenes come late in the film and are all-too-brief.

The discussion of craftsmanship would not be complete on any Spielberg film without mentioning the virtuosity of the director himself.  While The BFG lacks the layers and the heart of Spielberg’s earlier work, there is no denying that this film is masterfully directed, each shot articulated beautifully, evoking a magical complacency from the audience.  As with his last film Bridge of Spies, there is nothing to technically fault Steven Spielberg on when it comes to the direction of this film.  But like Bridge of Spies, there is just something missing from this film which prevents it from becoming a classic to sit alongside E.T., Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, and the countless other films from the prolific director that have already garnered this status.





Leave a Reply