Backdrops and Flashbacks

Let me tell you a Story

There are three stories present within “Saving Mr Banks” (dir. John Lee Hancock 2013), the story of Walt Disney’s adapting of P.L. Travers “Mary Poppins”, the story of P.L. Travers childhood and finally, the actual story of “Mary Poppins”. The reason I have chosen this film is the way it handles these stories within stories as it doesn’t use the typical bookending with a narrator.

A Bit about the Narrative

Not only is this a film with stories within stories, but it is also a film about making a film. It is in this way that the narrative of the original “Mary Poppins” is incorporated as it serves as a part of the filmic reality and is a backdrop for events in the main storyline.

The final storyline is that of P.L. Travers childhood in Australia which is necessary to provide insight into the inspiration for “Mary Poppins” (dir. Robert Stevenson 1964).  

Point of View

This film means to tell the story of P.L. Travers from the subjective view of Travers herself as both an adult and a child.

As the younger P.L Travers, known as Ginty, leaves on a train bound for Allora there is a point of view shot looking out as they move further away from their home, which then tracks backwards to reveal Ginty’s family sitting in the train. The shot gives the audience a sense of Ginty’s solitude and also foreshadows her dislike of change and travel later in her life.

Repetitive shots of Ginty and the older P.L. Travers can be seen in mid-shots, establishing shots and even shots from a bird’s eye view.

But almost always depicted alone or set apart. This is a visual representation of her solitude, adding to the idea that the only person Ginty truly felt close to was her father.

Often, there is a point of view shot from P.L. Travers, then a reverse shot to emphasise her distaste in what she is experiencing.

Intermittently, we were able to see what P.L. Travers saw, and her reaction to it. This was to create the separation between what Disney was creating, and the characters Travers thought they should be.

This shot, for example, is a mid-shot with both P.L. Travers and Walt Disney but the eye lines do not match. Travers is noticeably above Disney, showing she is firm and steadfast in her beliefs and won’t be swayed even by a man who is one of the most successful businessmen of his generation. The real P.L. Travers was known to be an unfriendly, unyielding woman, but the film is able to depict her in such a way that audiences can sympathise with.

Travers Goff and Aunt Ellie

Through flashbacks, the audience experiences P.L. Travers early life and how it inspired her novel. Similarly described by Corrigan and White, the flashbacks dissolve from a shot of P.L. Travers in real time, to that of Ginty, a conventional way of connoting memory within the film (151). These flashbacks serve the narrative motivation by introducing Ginty’s family who play a pivotal role in determining P.L. Travers protectiveness of her characters.

Travers Goff (played by Colin Farrell) was portrayed as a man both whimsical and irresponsible in equal measure.

The arrival of Aunt Ellie in a time of great desperation in Ginty’s life provides explanation to P.L. Travers rejection of the whimsical. For her, the character is based in realism and it serves the narrative by explaining why Travers wanted to hold onto the serious tone in her novel as well as the light.

To Finish

“Saving Mr Banks” aims to provide insight into the life of P.L. Travers and the making of Mary Poppins” through the use of flashbacks. This non-linear plot uses flashbacks to achieve its engaging depiction of this creative endeavour and keep it close to its true events.

Works Cited

Corrigan, Timothy and Patricia White. The Film Experience: An Introduction. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s., 2012. Saving Mr Banks (2013). n.d. Website. 27 April 2015.

Saving Mr Banks. Dir. John Lee Hancock. Perf. Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks. 2013. Film.



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