Thursday Fun: Big Fish

Although Tessa has already said it best, I’ll second her and say that the nature of truth is what fascinates me most about the movie Big Fish.

The main thing I’ve taken from this story is that there are a lot of different kinds of truth, and that the truth of something is very much dependent upon a specific person looking at a specific situation.

In my mind, the character of Will has a pretty narrow view of the world, and it’s heavily colored by resentment toward his father. Throughout most of the film, Will is adamant that his father abandon his tall stories and tell the actual truth—which, in Will’s estimation, exists in one definite form, and it isn’t particularly heartening. A journalist by nature as well as profession, he’s striving for impartial documentation. By stripping away the fantastical elements, he’s asking his father to admit to a world that is bleak and essentially cruel.

This is interesting, because for me, the real magic of Ed’s tales lies in the ugly parts. He’s weathered the Korean war, watched a whole town fall into ruin, and—if he can be believed, which he can’t, really—known for most of his life what his death will look like. But taken together with spectacles of great beauty, these events just serve to illustrate the complexity of the world. Despite numerous obstacles and complications, Edward has devoted himself to hard work, friendship, and a dedicated relationship with one woman. Because he has always focused on what is fantastic, on what might be, his version of the world is far more strange and glorious than Will’s, but in the end, it’s no less true.

I think that’s my favorite aspect of this movie: that a man can grow up and live a full and (debatably) responsible life, while experiencing the world with the same wonder a child would. Despite everything that’s happened over the course of his life, his love for the world is deep and real—and wholly without cynicism.

10 thoughts on “Thursday Fun: Big Fish

  1. I wonder if it’s possible to love the world completely, and also be somewhat cynical? Maybe if that cynicism is tinged with humor?

  2. Well, I think it is, but I might be kind of backwards on this one, since I tend to intellectualize everything anyway 😉

    But I’m really thinking of that whole hope-for-the-best/prepare-for-the-worst dichotomy. You have to be a little cynical and a little optimistic at the same time in order to pull that off–like doublethink at work. And of course, humor doesn’t hurt 😀

  3. I was hoping it might be possible!

    And in order to love the whole world, you have to love the really shitty parts of it, too… and often ironic humor is the best way to deal with that. Irony and cynicism go hand in hand.

    (Perhaps this is the lie I tell myself. 😀 )

  4. In real life, I firmly believe that this is true. The interesting thing about the movie character is, I think he’s genuinely able to love the really F-ed up parts of the world in a really uncomplicated way, because he transmutes them into something extraordinary and beautiful–like how a story about missing the birth of his son turns into a story about how much he loves his wife, or how to him, being declared dead doesn’t have any long-term ramifications besides making it kind of hard to get a job. He’s not even bothering to be cynical, he’s just rolling with the punches.

  5. That’s very true! It is an extremely simple outlook on life. I am a bit jealous at his ability to maintain it.

    Even the actuality of death isn’t something that gets him down. 😉

  6. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this one, but I remember liking it quite a bit. The more I think about truth in fiction, endless variables on perception of reality, and the function of our senses as personalized filters to experience, the more I appreciate chaos theory. How would I want someone to map out my life? The way I “lived” it? Or the way I imagined it?

  7. I spent eight months drafting that nonfiction manuscript, and I think you just summed it up in one sentence.

    Or, maybe you summed up your Moses story. Or maybe most people’s stories. Okay, this is spiraling out. Maybe everyone just has their own bunch of fractals. You think?

  8. Johnny Cash referred to the tale of the violent home invasion robbery in his autobiography and said this: ” I don’t know how many time I’ve heard June and the others [talk about the home invasion robbery]–and I’ve found myself thinking, I didn’t know that, I didn’t feel that, I don’t remember it that way. I’m not saying that June’s wrong and I’m right, just that people’s experiences and memories are so subjective. It makes you wonder about the whole idea of ‘historical fact.'” He mentions “Undaunted Courage” and talks about enjoying the novel but that its facts and timelines are so different than other works on the subject.

    Recollection’s are fascinating. What we tell ourselves every day is fascinating too. The world’s we paint can be so totally different than the one’s painted even by those that we live with every day.

    I loved Big Fish. And the soundtrack is awesome too! Great post.

  9. What a great story!–and it makes a strong case for subjectivity, even when the event in question is “true.” 🙂

Comments are closed.