Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Modern Fairy Tale Films: Part 2

I have more awesome films to add to the list, so of course I had to do another post! This time, I features surreal fantasy mixed with science fiction.

1) Mirrormask
Mirrormask is the story of Helen Campbell, a girl who hates being in the circus with her family. She fights with her mother, as teenage girls do, but is later consumed with guilt after her mother becomes sick and needs an operation. Afterwards, she enters a fantasy world where the Queen of Light is eternally asleep and the Queen of Shadows is taking over the land in an effort to find her daughter, a doppelganger of Helen. When I first saw this film, I walked into a friends apartment and was completely spellbound by the last 20 minutes. I dropped everything I was carrying and just forgot everything else because it was so different than anything I had ever seen. The film follows a basic fairy tales hero journey where the protagonist has problems at home, goes to a fantastical world, and then returns having learned a lesson and changed for the better. This basic story line can be seen in Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz. What makes this film different is the very different visuals, color scheme, soundtrack, and cast of characters. The world in the film isn't entirely benevolent, with man-eating sphinxes, the Queen of Shadows, and her creepy minions. I would say that this film is both for adults and for children. It walks a fine line and succeeds in being relevant to both audiences. It's to be expected from the likes of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. I would recommend this film to just about anyone.

2) The City of Lost Children

The City of Lost Children is a dark and surreal French film that has traits of both fantastical fairy tales and gritty dystopias. This odd pairing makes this film unique and unforgettable. It's the story of a little boy who is kidnapped by a mad scientist in an effort to slow down the aging process. This scientist is supported by his family that consists of a very small woman, 6 clones, and a sentient brain in a jar. The boy that was kidnapped was a the little brother of One, an incredibly strong, yet child-like man. He works tirelessly to save his little brother with the help of Miette, a street savvy and tough as nails orphan. My favorite part of the movie is the touching and endearing friendship between One and Miette. Both actors, Ron Perlman and Judith Vittet, are delightful and believable as an odd pair of friends: the wise beyond her years orphan and the strong yet childish man. Although there are many children present as orphans, this is not a film for children. They are used and abused by all of the adults in the film, save for One, who is largely considered an oversized child. In a way, it stays true to the classic fairy tales by virtue of the darkness it presents and how perhaps adults can fully understand them more than children. Fairy tales were not originally just for children as they are frequently thought of today. I love this film and its weird mix of steampunk, science fiction, fantasy, surrealism, and humor. This modern, urban fairy tale is not one that is easy to forget. Here is the trailer:

3) Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle is a whimsical fairy tale loosely based on the novel by Diane Wynne Jones. Sophie is a hatter who doesn't feel special in any way until a mysterious gentleman saves her from the unwanted advances of some soldiers and irrevocably involves her in his problems. She is cursed by the Witch of the Waste to be an old woman and she seeks out the mysterious man to fix her. This is only the beginning of her adventure with Howl, the demon Calcifer, and the magical castle they travel in. I don't think I'll ever be tired of this film. Magic is a huge part of the film and physical transformations almost become commonplace. The influences of classic fairy tales are visible, like the Beauty and the Beast-like relationship between Howl and Sophie or the Cinderella-esque treatment of Sophie. It all starts with Sophie wanting to be returned to herself, but it turns out to be more about saving Howl, finding power within herself, and saving their world from war than about her appearance. A big part of this story is portraying the devastating effects of war on the innocent people that are caught in the middle and how wars can turn men into monsters. This film isn't purely based in fantasy, but has touches of steampunk with the design of the castle, the many flying machines, and the Victorian style costumes. Howl's Moving Castle is visually beautiful in addition to such great story telling and characterization. It also has one of the best soundtracks I've ever heard. This is a performance of the theme that is present throughout the movie. Although the violinist does make some mistakes, he plays with such an exuberance and joy that it doesn't really matter.


Go check out Fairy Tale Fortnight at The Book Rat and Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing if you love fairy tales, retellings, and adaptations.

1 comment:

Giada M said...

I LOVE Mirrormask and Howl's Moving Castle is a must (both movie and book).
Great post! :D