Coraline (2009)

For B.O.

Yesterday, I got around to seeing the movie Coraline. I thought I had gotten tickets to a “regular” version of the show, but was pleasantly surprised to see a 3D version. (I now suspect that only a 3D version was released to the theaters.) Here are some thoughts (warning: SPOILERS below).

  1. Entering a dream world, or at least an alternative world, is a common theme in Mr. Gaiman’s work. The most obvious example (to me) is his Sandman series, which focuses on a god-like being, Morpheus, who rules the Dream World. Other examples are Stardust, American Gods, and Neverwhere.

    As some of you might know, I’m interested in the topic of dreams, especially lucid dreams. From his writing, I suspect that Mr. Gaiman knows what lucid dreams are, and that he may have even experienced them personally.

  2. Names are important to Mr. Gaiman, and he often chooses them carefully. Sometimes they symbolize something, and sometimes they’re puns. One memorable one for me (SPOILER ALERT) was in American Gods: there was a character there named “Low Key” who seemed to be just a regular guy, but turns out to be the god Loki. Or how about the character Ms. Lupescu in The Graveyard Book, who turns out to be a werewolf?

    In this case, I started wondering about the name Coraline. It looks like it means having to do with or being made of coral. But I’m not sure how that fits in with the movie. Maybe the transposition of the letters “a” and “o” from the more common name Caroline signifies something? Maybe it somehow symbolizes the character’s transposition between the real world and the Other World?

  3. There seemed to be only one way to get into Other Mother’s world: through the strangely organic-looking tunnel behind the secret door. Curiously, there seemed to be two ways to get out. The obvious way was to go back out the way you came in, through the tunnel. But Coraline seemed to be able to return to the “real” world simply by going to sleep and then waking up — at least for her first two visits to Other Mother’s world.

    As an aside, the organic-looking tunnel was reminiscent of a similar tunnel in Poltergeist (1982): in Carol Anne’s closet, an organic-looking tunnel appeared, that led into the maws of Hell! (A serpentine tongue came out and grabbed the little girl and dragged her in!)

  4. There’s an old admonishment about being careful what you wish for, because you might get it. It seems pertinent to this movie, because Coraline was offered the choice of having what appeared to her to be a better world than her “real” one. Of course, it was actually a bad deal, because she would have become Other Mother’s prisoner!

    Another movie I saw recently, Fanny (1961; saw it on DVD) had a similar situation, where a brash young man desirous of a life of adventure leaves behind his childhood sweetheart, the love of his life, to become a sailor. Unfortunately he finds that traveling the world as a sailor isn’t as romantic as he had thought it would be, and returns home. Only to find that, in his absence, his girlfriend had gotten married an older man.

  5. There was one part in the movie that I didn’t quite understand. At one point, Coraline wanted to open the door to get to the Other world, but her mother had locked the door and hidden the key. All of the sudden, she seems to know where the key is hidden, and goes directly to it — she grabs a chair, stands on it, and lifts the key off a hook high above a door. How did she know where to find the key?
  6. I wonder whether Other Mother could’ve won over Coraline with a subtler strategy. If she had simply been patient and kind, and kept serving delicious food, maybe Coraline would have chosen to stay in the Other World, without any coercion. Cf. Aesop’s fable about The North Wind and the Sun.
Published in: on 24 March 2009 at 10:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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