The boy who wouldn’t grow up is 100 years old this year. Ruth Hedges
explores the myth of PETER PAN as depicted in a new film adaptation by
Australian director PJ Hogan.
econd to the right and straight on till morning:
the way to Neverland, the path to eternal
childhood fantasy. the landscape of imagination. When Peter Pan guides Wendy. Michael and John out of their London nursery. only adventure and fun lie ahead. They are going to a land where youth is the winner and shines with undimnied brightness. J M Barrie‘s original play. written in I904. offers filmmakers mouth-watering scope for wild. indulgent effects. And. certainly. the first scenes of escape in the new adaptation of Prter Pun are truly breathtaking. Deep. blue starry skies give way to pink and orange fluffy clouds. revealing echoes of art director Donald McAlpine's previous alchemy on Mott/in Rouge.
But it is a blessing that this film is the vision and creation of director PJ Hogan (My Best friend's- ll/edding). While harnessing the magical potential offered by flying and fairies. Hogan's Prter I’un draws deep on the complex psychological issues at work within the story. Such themes elevate the tale of' the boy who never grew up to one of enduring myth which is compounded by the parallels in Barrie‘s own life — as is the case with the life of that other lidwardian l‘antasist. Lewis Carroll. in «flit-e.
It is the first time that a feature film has been made of Barrie‘s play (Disney l‘)53 and Spielberg's Hunk 199l ). and takes the bold step of casting Peter Pan as a boy. Jeremy Sumpter. who was 13 when filming took place. has the physical presence of a boy on the cusp of adolescence — strong. battling and fearless but with a purity of which (iermaine Greer would approve. shall we say. Wendy. played by the previously unknown Rachel Hard-Wood. is at
of womanhood is approaching: in Neverland it is the tick-lock of the crocodile. btit urges of the heart induced by Peter. ironically. are what beat her further towards becoming grown-up. His refusal to reciprocate her feelings is the brutal decision he has to make to preserve his youth and freedom.
At the heart of I’lter l’rtii is the eternal human battle between freedom. love and responsibility. and which Hogan embraces as his film's central moving and thrilling dynamic. Mr Darling is at home trapped in his
HOGAN'S PETER PAN DRAWS DEEP ON THE COMPLEX , , , PSYCHOLOGICAL 125133.33;1:223:33? .7::*’t.li‘..i‘:‘t ’ ISSUES AT WORK
' WITHIN THE STORY
own professional failings and suppressed dreams: Wendy — tomboy and mother figure — is caught
between childhood and approaching adulthood: Peter
Pan — eternal boy. mercurial and dazzling ~- is free from tedium btit not free to love. and (‘aptain Hook is bitter. cruel and lonely.
What Hogan‘s Peter Pan does. while taking you on a big adventure. is explore how Barrie worships the purity. beauty and freedom of youth btit also shows how its eternal state is loneliness. Barrie wrote in a notebook: long after writing Peter Pan its true meaning came to me — desperate attempt to grow tip btit can't.’ In the film. Hook says to Peter towards the end. ‘I know what you are — you're a tragedy »- you are incomplete. You’re alone and unloved. just like me.‘ The two battlers have shunned love for adventure: hero and villain. they're trapped on their own.
This film‘s (‘aptain Hook. played by Jason lsaacs. (The Patriot and Harry Potter) has been allowed to grow as a character beyond the pantomime baddie. Not only do you see the stump that in previous versions has always been sheathed in an iron claw. you see the raw pain and anger that puts the venom in his villainous heart. ‘llook is the character for me who. for adults. is most easily identifiable with because he‘s this guy whose life seems to be passing him by without him ever realising his dreams.‘ says lsaacs.
There is much to identify with. And as the dramatic tensions rise and Tinkerbell. played by l.udivine Sagnier (Swimming Pool). fiickers on the edge of death with only faith in fairies to save her. the latent child iii you gets a surge of exhilaration. Barrie’s legacy. re— imagined faithfully here. is to reconnect adults with their Peter Pan spirit. to foster it within children btit to help us all face the reality which Barrie could never quite do himself: that to grow tip is to compromise and that's probably a good thing. so long as you never completely discard the idea of Neverland.
Peter Pan is currently on general release. Neverland, a film about J M Barrie’s life starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslett is released later this year.
1860 James Matthew Barrie born in Kirrieiiitiir
1866 Barnes 13-year—old brother and his mother's favourite son. DaVid. killed in skating acCident. Barrie tries to become him to assuage his mother's grief.
1874 Barrie reaches the age his brother was when he died. and stops growing. He remains 5ft tall and doesn‘t start shaving until he's 24. 1897 Barrie established as writer in london. lives near Kensington Gardens where he takes his St Bernard dog. Porthos. for walks. He meets the Llewellyn DaVies' children. including baby Peter.
1897-1903 The children “become the focal pOint of his deepest emotions' and he makes tip intricate adventure stories for them, including Peter Pan. 1904 Writes and puts on play of Peter Pan. J M Barrie says in 1928: 'l clutch my brows in vain to remember whether the writing of the play was a last desperate throw to retain the five of you for a little longer. or merely a cold decision to turn you into bread and butter.‘
1906 Arthur Dav/tes. father of 'the boys'. dies.
1909 Barrie divorces his Wife. Mary Ansell. Wllll whom he has no children. 1910 Sylyiia Llewellyn Dawes. the children's mother. dies. Barrie adopts the orphans.
1915 George. one of the boys. dies in WI combat. Barrie had written to ‘illll two days before. saying: ‘For four years I have been waiting for you to become 21 so that we coold get closer to each other Without any words needed. I don't have any iota of military glory. I Just want yourself . . .' 1920 Barrie writes film scenario of Peter Pan (screenplayi for Paramount. 1921 Micheal Llewellyn Dawes drowns in the Thames.
1924 Silent film made of Peter Pan. 1937 J M Barrie dies.
1960 Peter Llewellyn DaVies throws himself in front of an underground train at Sloane Sduare. Headlines read: ‘The Boy Who Never Grew Up is Dead'. The myth lives on.
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