A Wizard of Oz Leitmotif in Steven Spielberg's films
EMPIRE OF THE SUN 1987
The camera shows us recurring visions of surreal scenes through windows, this strange new world of war-torn China—just as Dorothy’s peek inside the tornado from her bedroom window makes everyday things odd: chickens, man on rowboat etc. See Schindler’s List.
The boy’s angelic voice bespeaks the song of an innocent heart…a protagonist beset by world’s savagery. While reacting to/surviving evil intentions, the protagonist is not personally infected by them. Dorothy has this same characteristic, pure voice=purity of spirit. See Hook.
When the surge of the crowd separates Jamie and his mother after he retrieves his toy plane (like Dorothy’s rescue of Toto must separate her from Auntie Em), he shouts for her— she for him. Auntie Em and Dorothy shout for each other in tornado. Jamie’s mother calls for him to go ‘home’ to safety. Dorothy goes ‘home’ in tornado too. See See E.T., Twister, Close Encounters, Catch me if You Can, Minority Report, Amistad, The Color Purple, Munich, Poltergeist, The Terminal, The Goonies for other characters who believe in thesanctuary of home.
In the scene where Jamie explores foot and hand prints in talcum powder (His father dragging his mother away?), the wind blows the window open—inward of course. The old life is gone. This new world will prove very different! See Catch Me if You Can, Hook, Twilight Zone the Movie Kick the can Episode, Joe Vs. the Volcano for blown window moments like Dorothy’s where protagonist’s world is irrevocably altered.
Bicycle scenes proliferate in this film, at the beginning when Jamie is alone in house…when he leaves home to survive…at the end when Jim is alone in camp. MostSpielberg films not only include bicycle cameos; bikes are often employed as means of escape. SeeMunich, Adventures of Tintin, Amistad, 1941, Always, Super 8, War of the Worlds, The Goonies, Sugarland Express, Jaws, Inner Space, Used Cars
There’s a tinkling moment with dog tags that precedes Jim’s discovery that Dafoe (the trickster) has abandoned him. The chimes like Glinda’s foretell a key change is coming… See Always, A.I., E. T.,The Color Purple, Jaws, Close Encounters, Empire of the Sun, Super 8, Twister, Twilight Zone the Movie Kick the Can Episode, Joe vs. the Volcano for Steven’s liberal use of foreshadowing chimes.
Basie assumes the role of the trickster who appears in many of Spielberg’s works. As does the Wizard of Oz and his alter egos, this character may use slimy methods at times, but without his help, the honorable protagonist cannot achieve his/her goal. See The Color Purple, Lincoln, Munich, Saving Private Ryan, A.I., Always, Goonies, Jaws, Catch Me if You Can, Schindler’s List, the Goonies, Used Cars.
When his mother and he finally recognize each other at the end, Jim closes his eyes. It reminds us of Dorothy closing her eyes, clicking her shoes, ‘there’s no place like home…’ Mommy+Love=Home See A.I., Sugarland Express, Hook, Saving Private Ryan, War of the Worlds, Close Encounters, Catch me if You Can, The Color Purple, Poltergeist, Jurassic Park (to Grampa) and WOO (to Auntie Em).