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The Sacred Frog Storm in ‘Magnolia’

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If there’s one thing Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Magnolia wants you to know, it’s that there are no coincidences in life. The plot is reliant on this fact and on the understanding that the links between several seemingly unassociated people in the San Fernando Valley bears heavy narrative and thematic weight in the film and will ultimately pay off in a big way. Anderson masterfully reveals the connections of his characters to one another at just the right moments, in order for us to marvel at the non-coincidences we are bearing witness to. While using a fast, exciting soundtrack and flashy stylistic choices like whip pans and match cuts, alongside a host of other techniques, Anderson notifies us that all of this is a carefully orchestrated mosaic that will build toward something monumental.

And it does. Two hours and forty-five minutes into the film, a frog falls from the sky and explodes on the windshield of Police Officer Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly). He is shocked and confused. Of course, we’re a little perplexed, too. But we trust Anderson and understand by now that this cannot be just another coincidence. Indeed, frogs have fallen before. In Exodus 8 of the Old Testament, Moses is told to relay a message to Pharaoh from the Lord, who warns “if you refuse to let [my people] go, behold, I will smite all your territory with frogs” (Exodus 8:2). He then goes into further detail, explaining that “the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into your house, into your bedroom, on your bed, into the houses of your servants, on your people, into your ovens, and into........

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