When we first went live, back in May, I said that I write because I’m a liar. Stories are better than the truth – and they TELL the truth better than even the straight-up truth does itself. That philosophy is why I love Tim Burton’s BIG FISH. (Not to mention Jessica Lange’s grace, Ewan McGregor’s accent and my unholy attraction to Billy Crudup – no, I can’t explain it.)
In Big Fish, story-truth becomes real. It doesn’t matter, in the end, what “really happened.” The importance of life comes from the story. For example, we hear two different stories told about Will’s birth.
Happening-truth: it was a quick labor and his dad was on a sales trip in Wichita, KS. Truth.
Story-truth: Ed missed the birth because he was trying to catch the old, legendary salmon in the river, with his wedding ring as bait. It’s a story that ends up being about how much Ed loves Will’s mom.
That love is the kernel of truth around which the story was created, and that love is what is really important when it comes to Will’s birth. Who cares what time he was born, or what mundane reason Ed wasn’t there, when you can hear about his struggle with the giant fish and feel the triumph and love when he succeeds in getting his wedding ring back?
One of my favorite things about BIG FISH is that it allows for the impossible to exist in the same place as reality. That’s impossible we say, and yet it is also the TRUTH of the story. How can the little girl from Spectre also be the ancient witch Ed meets BEFORE he arrives in Spectre? Does a story have to power to transform a man into a fish?
BIG FISH intwines story-truth and happening-truth so that we only have a vague idea of the happening-truth, and are enveloped by the story-truth. And it’s safe and exciting and BETTER. I love that here, stories win completely – they are accepted as truth instead of dismissed as childish or raving. Tale-telling is validated, stories are given their proper place as truth.