5. Matilda Masters Her Powers
In a moment of pure joy and childhood wonder, Matilda stands on the sitting room coffee table at home and animates decor pieces. While Thurston Harris’s “Little Bitty Pretty One” blasts from the radio, she uses her telekinetic abilities to send lamps and plants spinning, and playing cards and poker chips flying, as she dances joyfully. It’s a beautiful scene illustrating Matilda’s newfound freedom.
This moment is also notable for its use of special effects. According to Steph Brandhuber at Screen Rant, most of Matilda’s tricks were created through practical effects, or ‘good old fashioned … strings, pulleys, and levers.’ Here, the special effects integrate seamlessly with the Wormwoods’ garish home interior complete with tasselled lampshades and kitschy knick-knacks. As Matilda manipulates and dances with her parents’ sitting room decor and poker set, she literally and symbolically finds her own strength and power within their world.
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4. The Haunting of Trunchbull’s House
‘Having power isn’t nearly as important as what you choose to do with it.’
After a particularly horrible day at school, Matilda’s kind and encouraging teacher, Miss Jennifer Honey (Embeth Davidtz), reveals that Miss Trunchbull is her evil step-aunt. After Miss Honey’s father, Magnus, died, Trunchbull cheated her out of her home and inheritance, her childhood doll, and her favourite chocolate truffles. One windy night, Matilda sneaks over to the house and uses telekinesis to steal back the doll and two truffles. However, she also takes the opportunity to prank the awful woman. Matilda pulls Trunchbull’s armchair out from under her, sends shot-put balls bouncing down the staircase, and flies Magnus’s old portrait through the house to the mantelpiece. The principal finally flees the house in a panic.
This moment is notable for its use of exaggerated horror film conventions. DeVito employs warm, low-key lighting emanating from the roaring fireplace, as well as numerous extreme high and low angles, canted angles, close-ups, and a highly mobile camera, to both express and mock Trunchbull’s terror. The scene is memorable for its artful composition and for finally showing the tyrannical principal getting a taste of her own medicine.
3. Matilda’s Happy Ending
After Miss Honey legally adopts Matilda, we see a montage of the new family having a picnic, rollerblading in the sitting room, and sharing their favourite chocolate truffles. After both heroines have endured so much pain and abuse, it’s cathartic to know that they will finally be truly happy and will have the freedom to play, learn, and grow.
Besides the joyful montage, the production design is particularly notable here. Each location in the film has its own lighting and colour palette. The Wormwood household is filled with obnoxious neons, shadows from the drawn blinds, and the blue flicker of the television set, whereas Crunchem Hall and Trunchbull’s house are characterized by low-key lighting, greys, and browns. Once Matilda and Miss Honey move back into the latter’s childhood home, their world is brimming with warm daylight, open windows, bright flowers, and pastel colours, evoking a peaceful, loving happy ending for both.