Dazed like in a Bosch painting or a Dali dream

Review of Magnolia (1999)

Review of Magnolia (1999) movie, by Stefan Stenudd


It's not that the three hours passed quickly - they really didn't - but I was mesmerized the whole time. It was like not only watching, but being contained inside a painting by Bosch, the Medieval "surrealist", or a dream in the head of Dali, Bosch's 20th century equivalent.



       Everything in the film - the scenery, the characters, the events - had a heavy scent of higher truth, of outlining the world as it really is.

       No, I'm not sure that the world according to director/writer Paul Thomas Anderson is more true than anyone else's - but his vision is portrayed with such clarity and emphasis, it is definitely true to him, and believable to us others.

       We get to follow the absurd situation of several characters, and how their drastic fates get interwoven. It's a sophisticated plot, indeed, which could easily turn it into more of an intellectual construction than a story of flesh and blood. It doesn't happen, though, and don't ask me why not. I guess it's simply too well told.

       Usually, the writer and the director being one and the same, lessens the end result. When a story is to be realized - on stage or on screen - it gains from the natural conflict between writer and director. Already there, a struggle is introduced. Anderson is one of the few to pull it off - which puts him way up there among Bergman and the like.

       But can he repeat his feat? I wonder. The width and depth of Magnolia rather suggest that he has, by this movie, told all the stories he had in his head. I hope I'm wrong.

Stefan Stenudd
6 January 2003




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Ever Young. Novel by Stefan Stenudd. Sunday Brunch with the World Maker. Novel by Stefan Stenudd. All's End. Science fiction novel by Stefan Stenudd.
Tao Te Ching - The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tao Quotes - The Ancient Wisdom of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Cosmos of the Ancients. Book by Stefan Stenudd.
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I'm a Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction books in both Swedish and English. I'm also an artist, an historian of ideas and a 7 dan Aikikai Shihan aikido instructor. Click the header to read my full bio.