The 1939 classic has inspired everyone from David Lynch to Salman Rushdie. Novelist and super-fan Luiza Sauma explores why the film’s message about home still holds such power
Eighty years ago, in the summer of 1939, 16-year-old Judy Garland appeared on cinema screens as the orphan Dorothy Gale, dreaming of escape from bleak, monochrome Kansas. “Find yourself a place where you won’t get into any trouble,” her aunt beseeches, too busy for poor old Dorothy, who soon breaks into song: “Somewhere, over the rainbow, skies are blue / And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true”. Her wish is soon granted by a tornado that carries her to the gaudy, Technicolor Land of Oz, instilling her as an icon for misfits, migrants, gay kids, dreamers – anyone who has ever wanted to run away.
More than 40 years later, The Wizard of Oz was one of the first films I watched as a toddler in Rio de Janeiro, on my dad’s Super 8 projector. My parents were already dreaming of their own escape to London, where we would go a few years later. They hadn’t been born when the film was released, a few days before the start of the second world war, though by then my mother’s Jewish parents were building a life in Rio, their own Oz, far away from Poland – a land that would turn out to be far bleaker than Kansas. My grandparents were homesick, not quite settled, for the rest of their lives. Unlike Dorothy, they couldn’t click their heels together and magic themselves back. Home didn’t exist any more; it was a memory, an idea, a receptacle for feelings of loss.