TUN­NEL VI­SION

Empire (UK) - - ON SCREEN -

Willy Wonka & The Choco­late Fac­tory (1971) Se­lected by Terri White, Ed­i­tor-in-chief Grip­ping the pages of Roald Dahl’s Char­lie

And The Choco­late Fac­tory as kids, we all mag­icked up our own im­age of ec­cen­tric, bright-eyed fac­tory owner Willy Wonka. Un­til we saw the for­ever un­see­able: Gene Wilder’s sin­gu­lar, flam­boy­ant, de­ranged yet charm­ing Wonka, in the reti­tled Willy Wonka & The

Choco­late Fac­tory. A telling change which firmly lets you know whose film this re­ally is.

Right from his fa­mous limp-turned­som­er­sault en­trance, the iconic per­for­mance is ac­tu­ally an exercise in fevered re­straint for Wilder, who is pulling on ei­ther rein through­out the movie: faster, slower, less, more! But there is one scene in par­tic­u­lar in which he mem­o­rably lets one rein slide en­tirely through his fin­gers, set­ting the rhythm with his glee­ful shout of, “Faster! Faster!”

The tun­nel se­quence opens in­no­cently

enough: Wonka is tak­ing the Golden Tick­etwin­ners and their fam­i­lies on a boat cruise along the choco­late river, its banks dec­o­rated with brightly coloured candy. “You’re go­ing to love this, just love it!” he prom­ises them (and us). Then he starts to break into song: “There’s no earthly way of know­ing… which di­rec­tion we are go­ing…” The boat en­ters the tun­nel.

It be­gins to pick up speed as it’s plunged into dark­ness: a black­ness bro­ken only by psy­che­delic pat­terns and colours, flash­ing across con­torted faces as panic rises. “What is this, a freak-out?” shrieks Vi­o­let Beau­re­garde (Denise Nick­er­son), speak­ing for all of us. (The ac­tress re­cently claimed their alarm was ac­tu­ally real, as Wilder, un­known to the cast, was im­pro­vis­ing.)

By the time there’s a choppy cut to a close-up of a cen­tipede on Wonka’s mo­tion­less face, the mes­sage is now not one of hope, but of won­der, at wit­ness­ing such in­ten­sity, such a com­pletely brain-bend­ing per­for­mance. You came out of that tun­nel feel­ing changed, for the bet­ter.

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