Sunday, January 04, 2009

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is probably the first book I ever 'read'. I use inverted commas because it was the first book I recall being read to me and that I followed completely from start to finish. My grade two teacher, Mrs Marchant I think was her name, read the book for our class, so I would have been about seven or eight I guess.

I remember the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory being very vivid and engrossing. The fact that the main subject of the story was about a lolly and chocolate factory no doubt made the story all the more compelling. Willy Wonka's factory seemed like a dream come true for a young kid.

So it was fun after so long to actually read the book with my own eyes. It was a really good read. The story is well constructed and compelling and gets you in from the start. Then there is the enigmatic and eccentric character of Mr Wonka. One wonders how film makers came up with the darker and unsettling cinematic versions of Mr Wonka.

If I was going to cast the film, I would have chosen Ronnie Corbett for the role. He has the same mischievous twinkling in the eye that Mr Wonka has.

After reading the book on which the films are based, I have to say I much preferred the original novel. Roald Dahl's Mr Wonka belongs more to the English tradition of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear.

We should be fair to the Americans though. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was published in the US several years before it was published in the United Kingdom, so perhaps they feel they have considerable cultural 'ownership' (to use the vernacular) of the novel.

It is certainly interesting to see how they interpreted Mr Wonka. Gene Wilder's version is scary and unpredictable and almost misanthropic. Johnny Depp's is gothic, a bit like Vincent Price. It's interesting how the Tim Burton film also endeavors to add some sort of psychoanalytical reasoning for Mr Wonka's obsessions, thus 'curing' him by exploring his childhood relationship with his father. This is a complete fabrication and does not appear in the novel, or its sequel.


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