What's in a Book?: The BabadookDecember 19, 2014
Broadly, the film is about widowed mother Amelia (Essie Davis) struggling to raise her son Sam (Noah Wiseman), who is becoming increasingly sleepless, aggressive and convinced that "monsters" will soon attack him and his mother. When Mister Babadook shows up on her son's picture book shelf, the two are hurled into a nightmare that blurs the lines between the supernatural and the reality of the exhaustion of motherhood and the unresolved grief of Amelia's husband's death. If you want more of a synopsis and analysis, there are plenty of reviews out there. It's a fantastic film, and the raw emotion and terrifying imagery will leave you reeling for hours after watching it.
What I'm most interested in talking about is the pop-up book itself—now, apparently, being made into a real book. All I can say is, "Whyyyyyyyy?" Since watching the film, I've been trying to parse out the symbolism of the book. Evil arriving and being unleashed in the form of a book certainly isn't a new plot device—even J.K. Rowling did it—and maybe (as my boyfriend suggested) it's just a simple, visually compelling way to get the conflict established and moving, without any further meaning lurking beneath.
|Source: The New York Times|
Bibliophile that I am, I'm not satisfied by that explanation. The power of narrative and myth is well-established—it can comfort us, shock us, make us believe the impossible and the improbable. Putting our feelings into words is a form of catharsis, allowing us to lay down our burdens regardless of whether anyone else ever reads what we have to say. It's undeniable that this is what Mister Babadook is—a physical embodiment of Amelia's grief and anger and what it can (and will) become if she allows it to take over. But why the physical book itself? Why do we (as humans) think that books hold so much power over us?
As you can see in the trailer, Amelia literally destroys the book—she tears it apart, and, when that doesn't work, burns it in her barbecue grill. In The Chamber of Secrets, Ginny attempts to flush the diary away, and Harry literally stabs it, watching it leak its ink in a not-so-subtle nod to bleeding a person out. This suggests something beyond the story's ability to grip us—something about its physical embodiment troubles us, deeply, and we want to destroy it. Why?
Anyone have any thoughts on this? Why do you think we imbue physical books with so much power? Anyone else watched The Babadook? Talk to me!