Magical Realism: Books and Films



Magical Realism is a genre prevalent in literature and film that incorporates fantastic elements into an otherwise, realistic, mundane setting.  Ancient beliefs, mythology, and legends speak to the heart. The King of Magical Realism is Columbian, Gabriel García Márquez, and his masterpiece is One Hundred Years of Solitude(1967) about the South American mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendía family. Don’t be fooled by the genre fantasy. In fantasy novels, the created world adheres to a natural or physical law. In Magical Realism, like One Hundred Years of Solitude, descriptions such as poverty and housekeeping are surrounded with fantastic happenings and presented in a way that is completely believable. Magic!

Here’s some of my favorite examples….

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This is only a brief list.  Which Magical Realism books are your favorite?


Films shine today when they use special effects to bring Magical Realism to life. Magical Realism in films are often those cool films that cause you to speculate and think about the meaning of life. The realism of boring life seems to spawn a magical element that becomes convincing. Magical Realism in films question philosophical themes like what is real, or join legends and myths to the “real” world. Don’t be fooled by fantasy. Magical Realism is not The Lord of the Rings or Avatar.  Is it The Wizard of Oz? Yes.

Frequently, a great classic novel finds success on the screen.  Again, fantasy follows a law of physics or natural order set in another time or dimension. Magical Realism inserts fantastic elements into a mundane life to create the extrodinary.

Here’s a sampling of my favorite Magical Realism films:

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Magical Realism is one of my favorite genres for telling stories. It’s escapism at it’s best.

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Ang Lee is my favorite director when it comes to Magical Realism. He is my hero!  Which novels and films are your favorites?

15 thoughts on “Magical Realism: Books and Films

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  1. I love, love, love Marquez — I was mesmerized by “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” I loved “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” and any film of Ang Lee’s. I loved “Alias Grace,” and enjoyed, but wasn’t entranced by “Middlesex.” Haven’t read the book “Chocolat,” but adored the movie. Kafka and Toni Morrison are wonderful writers.
    Missing from your list is someone whom I consider to be Magic Realist — Borges.
    Will be back with more … off to tend to kid.


  2. Hi, Cindy:

    Interesting and eclectic group of novels and films!

    Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis” helped understand where David Cronenberg was coming from in his very early works.

    One of my favorite newer tales would be Tim O’Brien’s “Going After Cacciato”. A very dreamlike tale of one GI wanting to desert from south of Cambodia to Paris during the Vietnam war. And his squad who pursues him.


    1. The Fly is my favorite science fiction/horror film. I still haven’t seen A Dangerous Method or Cosmopolis. Did you like? He gets the most out actors like Viggo Mortensen….


  3. Hi, Cindy:

    ‘The Fly’ rocks on several levels. Never figured Jeff Goldblum could do drama. And he does. Exceptionally well!

    ‘A Dangerous Method’ is a great looking, well detailed period piece that is about 7/10s of a great film. Very much like Nichol Williamson and Alan Arkin in ‘The Seven Percent Solution’.

    I’d wait for Nextflix or DVD on ‘Cosmopolis’. Too much plot. Not enough execution.


  4. Interesting post.
    Would you consider books like Burgess’ ‘A Clockwork Orange’, Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’, magical realism?? or maybe not, they are both futuristic books. How about Oscar Wilde’s ‘Picture of Dorian Gray’?? Even that doesn’t seem to tally with the rest above. I’m lost.
    How about movies like ‘House of Spirits’, ‘Woman on Top’, ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, ‘Science of Sleep’ et al – Those most probably seem more likely to come under Magical realism.
    I’ve read plenty of fantasy/surreal works, but I’m drawing a blank right now.


    1. AH!! Arundhati Roy’s ‘God of Small Things’. How could I forget.
      And how about ‘Tokyo Cancelled’ by Rana Dasgupta, and to a certain extent ‘The Pilgrim Kamanita’ by Karl Gjellerup.
      I might remember more later. Thing is I read these books ages ago (except for ‘A Clockwork Orange’, which I read two years ago, and ‘Tokyo Cancelled’ which I read less than three years ago). But thanks to this post I started to reflect on what I read 10 to 15 years ago.


      1. Well you just gave me three books to read. Thanks! GST,TC,TPK. Psy-fi is interesting in that they play with time and we can’t know the future gadgets so they seem magical. Thanks for your comments!


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