director Henry Selick
I’ve been known to effuse about Henry Selick’s 2009 stop-motion animated film, Coraline. It really is not all that often that a film comes along and hits home with me in a way that Coraline has, moving into this amorphous, somewhat random personal pantheon of favorite movies. But it did and it has and this, my fourth viewing of the film, first since 2010, no aspect of it seems diminished in my appreciation. But one thing has expanded upon my appreciation, that of enjoying the film with Clara.
In my efforts to establish Felix and Clara’s favorite movies from the films that we’ve watched together, I was surprised by a few films that they didn’t remember or didn’t highlight, particularly a couple that we have on DVD (we don’t own an extensive DVD selection). In pulling these discs out for future watching, Clara decided to watch Coraline on Wednesday (it’s spring break for them) and she was really into it. She didn’t recall having seen it at all before. And when a one-on-one movie night for Clara and I came along, her choice was the watch the film again, even after watching it the day before.
For me, Coraline is a classic sort of childhood fantasy. Adapted from Neil Gaiman’s novel, the story of a young girl, not so much neglected by her parents, but alienated through their lack of attention, discovers in her new home a gateway to an alternate universe, where her “Other Mother” lives. At first it’s an idealized fantasy land in which everything that is dull or rotten in her life takes on a vivified, magical enhancement, from a dancing mouse circus, to a stupendous acrobatic stage performance, to a full-color garden alive in her image. Of course, the world is too good to be true, and the “Other Mother” tells her that she has to commit to her fantasy world, stay there forever, and sew buttons in place of her eyes. This villain is some sort of a classic witch, feeding on the love and lives of children, more spider than human, and Coraline must solve some of the mysteries adherent to her in order to escape.
Why Clara didn’t remember the film, I can’t say. I mean, we even read the book back around the time. It doesn’t matter because it was fun for her to discover it and for us to enjoy it together. She also was really curious about the music, by Bruno Coulais, which I’ve also noted and appreciated as part of the film’s strange tonality. Heck, I’d even bought the soundtrack (something that really is not a particularly common thing for me.) I dug it out and shared it with her as well. For me, it’s very nice to have someone else who appreciates Coraline as much as I do. It could hardly be better that it’s Clara and that the appreciation is so spot on. And even better that it was her own re-discovery that brought it about.