It is rare that a film can so profoundly cause me to be so moved. While I enjoy many a year, almost half as many films as I read books, there are generally only the one or two absolutely brilliant films. Saving Mr Banks is one of those films, as Gravity was for the last year. I know it was made and released in 2013, yet Saving Mr Banks only reached Australian screens yesterday when I saw it.
For those who are unaware, Saving Mr Banks is the Disney version of the story of how Mary Poppins became a classic film. In my childhood I believe that I did see most of Mary Poppins and yet I have forgotten much about that film, save that I remember some aspects of the songs. I have always seen Poppins herself as a character there to save individuals and certainly that is explained in the film, however I have seen her as Disney and his employees clearly saw her: as a saviour of children. It is clear P.L. Travers sees her instead as the saviour of the parents.
The beauty of the film is how it shows real life as a kind of fictional work in its own right. Of course, you cannot deny that there is clearly some editing work going on to sanitise the overall story. Yet for this, you get a sense that the story as it stands contains a far greater amount of truth than it should. After all, what kind of Disney movie would even hint at the fact that Walt Disney did care about the press, the reviews and the money his film would rake in? Shouldn't a Disney film be all about the dreams of children and not the overbearing, larger than life personality that spawned it all? But the film doesn't deny that Disney was this kind of overbearing businessman as well as a lover of imagination - and pushy to boot - which provides a kind of honesty. And as for P.L. Travers - she is portrayed wonderfully as a sensitive, neurotic and very controlling type of woman - someone who wants her world as she imagines it. And of course, the reasons for this, as well as the reasons behind Mary Poppins existing are shown in flashbacks of her childhood in Australia.
I shall have to watch Mary Poppins again shortly, to help kick my memory into gear and I shall also have to read the novel. However, the film was perfect without any knowledge of the plots of those stories at all (certain 'inside jokes' might make more sense however after I kickstart my memory). What I wish to say is that I found the connections and thoughts discussed between fiction and reality in the film interesting. Many of the characters and ideas written into the Mary Poppins stories were in fact influential behind P.L. Travers' life and so, when the scriptwriters are disecting those aspects, it is as if they are dissecting her very life. To do so can be a strange, dangerous and scary thing. After all, they say that fact can be stranger than fiction...