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    Magical Realism in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Essay

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    In life the process of aging is something inevitable.

    Everyone gradually ages in time; it is what you do with that time that matters in the end. What if someone could age in reverse instead of dying old one could die young? Mark Twain said; Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of 80, and gradually approach 18. The film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button uses magical realism to show how life would be happier if one were to age in reverse. I would describe magical realism as realistic but invaded by factors that happen without an explanation.

    This film has five characteristics of magical realism. First the film makes ordinary subjects seem extraordinary. It also does not justify unreal elements or why they happen. This film touches the heart in a way that it expresses feelings that are unexplainable in words.

    Therefore in the film the unreal happens as a part or as an extension of reality. Finally the film reveals the mysterious side of the ordinary, giving the ordinary a deeper meaning. At birth Benjamin’s mother dies, and his father gives him away to a nursing home where he is cared for by Queenie. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a film about a man born with the physical characteristics, and appearance of an 80-year-old man.

    He is also born with the mind, and likings of an old man. He grows younger, and younger as the years pass on, which makes him an outsider to those that know of his condition. In the film Queenie immediately decides that baby who is “as ugly as an old pot” is a child of God who must be cared for, no matter how difficult that may be (Fincher, 2008). Queenie is an ordinary hardworking woman who runs a retirement home in the 1920.

    What makes her extraordinary is her ability to see past Benjamin’s odd appearance despite the social expectations of her time. Queenie tries to bring normality to a situation that is extraordinary. As Benjamin starts to age in reverse he is in a wheelchair, and turns out to be a great listener. He did not think he was a child but because he was always around old people he thought he was just an old man. When is 7 years old Benjamin looks 80. Everyone wants to tell him what they’ve been through in life.

    A man with a poor memory points out again, and again that he was struck by lightning seven different times. God keeps reminding me I’m lucky to be alive” (Fincher, 2008). The man tells how he got stuck throughout the film. In actuality kids are not great listener’s, and nevertheless will people start telling a kid what one has gone thought in life.

    This shows how an ordinary 7 year can be extraordinary gifts. Both of these characters seem ordinary at the beginning but have qualities that make them seem truly extraordinary. Benjamin meets Daisy she is the granddaughter of one the residents at the home. They instantly bond, and become friends regardless Benjamin’s difference in appearance.

    Daisy somehow realizes that even though Benjamin has the body of an old man he sees he is different in his mind he sees the innocent of a seven year old. There is no explanation to their friendship it just happened. In this film there are a few events that happen with no need of justification. One of those events takes place when Benjamin decided to volunteer as a cook for Captain Mike crew and joins them in World War ll. At first they sailed and thought they were ready for war. Later on the war catches up to them, and they encounter a transport that had over 1,300 men was split by a torpedo.

    If that weren’t enough they go into battle head on with a German ship. All of the men Benjamin meet died, and he was the only survivor of that tragic ship battle. There is no explanation for Benjamin survival. Another event that leaves us with no explanation is Daisy’s accident.

    She was coming out of ballet practice when at the same time a taxi driver has distracted. The driver ran her over crushing her leg Something to keep in mind is , Had any of the things happened differently that day would it have made a difference in Daisy’s outcome. ?If her friends shoe lace hadn’t broken moments earlier, or if the delivery truck hadn’t moved moments earlier. If the taxi driver stopped for a cup of coffee, and if the package would have been packed and ready for the lady.

    Thing is ‘Sometimes we’re on a collision course, and we just don’t know it. Whether it’s by accident or by design, there’s not a thing we can do about it. ’ (Fincher, 2008). The film tries to analyze the reason for Daisy’s accident but in the end there is simply no explanation.

    The passing of Quinine in the film is yet another event that leaves no justification. Benjamin and Daisy go back to the home to look for Queenie to only find out she was passed away. Benjamin was always gone for long periods of time. He went a couple of times to visit his mother but this time it was just too late. Queenie died suddenly with no explanation except for only old age.

    There are events in Benjamin’s life where feelings are expressed in feelings but are unexplainable in words. Queenie always told Benjamin to stay close because it was too dangerous outside for him. Until one day Benjamin means Mr. Otti who does not believe Benjamin is 7 years old but only looks at his appearance and believes he is 80. Therefore Mr.

    Otti invites Benjamin out, and takes him on an adventure. He tells him stories about his life, takes him to the park in New Orleans. Mr. Otti believes Benjamin can find his way back home, and leaves him on his own. He misses the train walk all the way home all night with blisters on his palms. It was the first time Benjamin experienced the outside world, and to him this experience was great he describes it as the best day in his life.

    The feeling of having that first experience of freedom is priceless. A second event in Benjamin’s life was when he meets Ms. Maple. She was always dressed in fine clothes and pears as if she was to go out even when no one visited her.

    Ms. Maple taught him how to play the piano and kept the home alive. It was Ms. Maple death that had a great impact on Benjamin. With her passing, Benjamin learned what it meant to miss somebody.

    The value of that lesson has no words he saw her as a friend, he learned that there is nothing wrong with missing someone who passes away. As Benjamin gets older he meets a woman named Elizabeth, and they have an affair. Having someone to share life stories, and having a companion is the closest he has ever been to a woman. The adrenaline of sneaking around Elizabeth’s husband back meeting in secret is what makes them feel younger. For the first time in his life Benjamin feels young, and realizes that time is too precious to be wasted with. Benjamin felt that Elizabeth was the woman to ever love him, her company, and the way she made him feel can’t be described in words.

    The Curious Case of Benjamin Button gives through magical realism shows that the unreal happens as a part of or an extension of the reality. In the film Daisy and Benjamin have a daughter named Caroline. Benjamin is worried about how he is supposed to be a father to his daughter Caroline if he keeps getting younger. Benjamin decides to leave Caroline to be raised by Daisy he knew that his daughter needed a father not a playmate. A few years later Benjamin decides to return goes to Daisy’s dance studio to find out Daisy is married.

    When he sees his daughter he is amazed by how similar they look of age, and how the years have gone by. This is the part when magical realism comes into play . The audience is not expected to believe that a father can meet his daughter after being gone for years, and age in regression but it still happens. To summarize the last characteristic the film fits into magical realism the film reveals the mysterious side of the ordinary, giving the ordinary a deeper meaning.

    The beginning of the film shows that Daisy is in a hospital in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. She is dying, and her daughter is reading Benjamin’s diary to her. The story of Benjamin’s life is a story within a story. All of the events Caroline is reading to her mother are happening as the story is being told. Caroline never knew of Benjamin until she read the diary he was always a mystery to her. Finding out Benjamin was her father gives the story a deeper meaning as why it is being told.

    The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is an example of how life would be happier if one were to gradually age in regression. Benjamin’s life was full the same events one were to experience if aged normally. Benjamin always keeps an open mind, and made the most of his life. Given the fact that Benjamin ages in reverse he learns that life is too precious to be wasted.

    He lived his life by making the best of it, and therefore died with no regrets. Magical realism has transcended from the written words to film by animation. Some magical realism films are based on the book. Matthew J. Bolton (2010) said that “David Fincher’s 2008 film adaptation of the F Scott Fitzgerald short story “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is a fascinating example of the complexities inherent in adapting a story for the screen”(p.

    73). This means before there were movies about magical realism there were books made. There are quite a few magical realism TV shows, one of them being How I Meet your Mother, and That 70s Show. The purpose of magical realism films is still to entertain even if the audience’s preference may be different. The older populations might enjoy reading books of magical realism while the younger populations enjoy film, and movies.

    Film and television are better ways of conveying the characteristics of magical realism. When the audience watches a movie on magical realism one can understand the sense of how some ordinary subjects seem extraordinary. This happens through animation versus reading a book, and having to imagine how the unreal happens as a part of reality. The increasing popularity of magical realism in pop culture is due to the characteristics of magical realism. The characteristics of magical realism give movie directors, and writer’s unlimited ideas on what to produce next. The style of magical realism does not need an audience or style to go on.

    As long as there is imagination in one’s mind magical realism will keep on being conveyed in film, books, and television.


    Bolton, M. J. (2010).

    The Curious Adaptation of Benjamin Button: From Fitzgerald’s Satire to Fincher’s Sentimentality. Critical Insights: F. Scott Fitzgerald, 73-87. Fincher, David, dir.  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

    Writ. Roth Eric and Robin Sword. Warner Bros, 2008.

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