Monday, 6 February 2012

HerUni: Fairy Tales of the 21st Century

Fairy tales have been told in the English languages for centuries. We have seen them in many forms: word of mouth, picture books, stories, Disney. Now there is a whole new wave of cinema that has the fairy tale at the heart of the storyline.

It is true that Disney is a form of cinema, a huge form in fact with an enormous fan base all over the world and merchandise worth billions. This was the cinema of our childhood. As we’ve grown older, the typical fairy tale has changed. Back then we needed a prince and a princess to kill the evil witch, fall in love, marry and live ‘happily ever after’. Now, we want action, we want murder, we still want love, but not the too optimistic ‘happily ever after part’ at the age of sixteen.

This is where the 21st century steps in with its high technology that can turn a human into a wolf in an instant, or make an evil queen break into three dozen black crows. With today’s technology anything can happen. Also, in this day and age the actors are of our generation. Therefore, they tend to be a bit more independent, especially the women which is why we have more heroines now in cinema than the typical ‘princess’ character. Actresses such as Amanda Seyfried and Kristen Stewart are perfect examples for their roles in fairy tale cinema.

These actresses are beautiful yet they hold a sense of mystery around them which is why they bring a new element to the fairy tale. They bring individuality, and these women play characters who do not want to be rescued like a damsel in distress. These young actresses have aspirations which could be the reason why young girls look up to them, and would prefer watching these versions of fairy tales instead of the classic Disney version. It is unconventional in a fairy tale for the lead female character to have some kind of evil in her system, which is what I believe in Red Riding Hood. Also, if the female protagonist physically fights in a battle against the villain, they would be subverting from the classical perception that women play the role of the ‘princess’ (according to Propp’s characters).

Three new films that have been adapted from classic fairy tales are Red Riding Hood from Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty from the original, and Snow White and the Huntsman from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. So, how are these films different from the original stories that we used to read as children?

You all know the story of Little Red Riding Hood. A little girl takes a basket of fruit and cake through the woods to her grandmother while being followed by a wolf, who ends up impersonating the grandmother as he has eaten the real one. There are various endings to this story, including the wolf being cut open by a woodcutter, and Little Red being gobbled up by the wolf too. In the 2011 interpretation of the story, Valerie (Red Riding Hood) lives in a small village in the middle of the woods where at every full moon, a werewolf haunts it, taking lives of innocents. Valerie is not the perfect little angel depicted in the fairy tale; she kills a rabbit as a young child right at the beginning of the film, goes against her parents’ wishes and falls in love with the woodcutter’s son, and there is definite sexual tension throughout the film. Spoiler Alert. There is a connection between Valerie and the werewolf as she can hear its thoughts which tell her to come away with it. I will not state what kind of connection but it is a close one which will keep you guessing right until the very end. It is a mystery story which is what makes it a good film, as well as the love triangle between Valerie, Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), and Henry (Max Irons). As a result, there are distinct changes between the original and this twenty first century film which is what makes it enjoyable for older people.

Sleeping for one hundred years and being awoken by true loves first kiss is a bit of a leap for the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty, yet as kids, we all believe that this can happen: we can live for one hundred years with our horses and not look a day over sixteen. If only this happened. I have not yet seen Julia Leigh’s 2011 adaptation of Sleeping Beauty but from the trailer and the synopsis, it is a definite stretch from the Disney version we watched as a child. Nevertheless, it could be that this recent version is a little closer to the original Grimm story. This indie film shows Lucy (Emily Browning) as a student who has many jobs in order to keep herself safely under a roof. She meets Clara (Rachael Blake) who offers her a job in silver service while wearing lingerie. Lucy is then asked to do a more intimate job for a client, who gives her tea which makes her fall into a deep sleep. The client then caresses her whilst she is sedated. This is what is close to the original story, as the ‘beauty’ is raped whilst she is sleeping. This is an alarming film which illustrates the lengths that young people will go to in order to get money to live. Furthermore, it provides a unique view which differs from mainstream Hollywood cinema. As a result, this could make it reflect the lives of real girls who are struggling in this economy.

Finally, a film that has been hugely anticipated this coming year is Snow White and the Huntsman. The seven dwarves have been dropped in favour of Thor’s Chris Hemsworth who plays the Huntsman. Kristen Stewart stars as Snow White, while Charlize Theron plays the villain, Queen Ravenna. This is an all starring cast for a huge motion picture. The aspect of the film is still the same: Queen Ravenna wants to be the fairest of them all, but is told by her mirror on the wall that there is another with hair as black as night, skin white as snow, and lips red as the rose. Being the evil witch, she employs the huntsman to kill fair Snow White in order to become the one true beauty. However, it seems that there will be a team change. I predict that the huntsman will go into battle against Queen Ravenna, on the side of Snow White, and I also predict that they will fall in love instead of Snow White falling in love with Prince William (Sam Claflin). This version is full of battle, evil, traitors and more which is greater than the original fairy story. The special effects also play a huge role in this film as I stated earlier especially with regards to the crows which are an important symbol throughout the movie.

So, why do we all love fairy tales? Why are fairy tales amazing bases for up and coming movies of the twenty first century? Why can’t we get enough of them? I believe that creating new fairy tales takes us back to the originals we listened to at bedtime. I believe that fairy tales will never grow old because of the characters we have met in our early childhood, who we will always love. I believe that fairy tales make good cinema as the basis of the story is still there. The basic story in a fairy tale will always be good against evil and good triumphing over evil, which is something that we all want in our lives.


faye xoxo

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