Films to Love: A Wish Your Heart Makes
Here at Whiskers on Kittens, hope is a topic dear to my heart. I’ve written about it on numerous occasions, the latest being Lines to Love: We Are Built to Hope. Hope’s preeminence in my life is a direct result of childhood influences. As I touched on on Monday, that’s why we should revisit fairy tales as adults. They remind us of the lessons we learned when we were kids. One such tale taught me a very important lesson:
While the original story of Cinderella is not what Walt Disney brought to the screen, it is a worthy and applicable retelling of the classic oral tradition. More significantly, it has had immense impact on generations of people. The 1950 Disney animation shows a woman who, in spite of the slings and arrows that assault her, maintains that little being with feathers perched in her soul. More often than not, you’ll find Cinderella singing along with Hope, but there are times when the darkness encroaches. When she can’t remember the words to the songs she’s sung to keep her spirit buoyant, Hope sings the song for her. I have carried this lesson with me from my childhood and return to it often when I need the reminder that I am built to hope, even when I don’t feel like I can.
And while breaking out the storybooks of old is one way to rekindle the memories, I find watching movies a far more immediate solution. Certainly, I’ve watched the 1950’s Disney version my fair share, but there are several other Cinderella renditions that I count among my favorites.
The kingdom of Euphrania is in danger. Not only are they pressed on all sides with war looming, but their Prince Edward is as yet unmarried and showing no prospect of a future wedding on the horizon. You see, while his father and mother encourage him to consider the plethora of princesses throughout all the surrounding kingdoms, Prince Edward is hell bent on marrying for love. It’s proving quite the trial for his parents, but there it is.
Elsewhere in Euphrania, Cinderella’s father has passed away leaving her in the selfish clutches of her stepmother and step sisters. Reduced to a servant in her own home, slaving away to cook and clean, Cinderella waits on their every whim. Her’s is a dire lot with little hope of joy. And yet, in spite of all the demands and ingratitude, Cinderella still brims with an ineffable hope that her situation will improve.
Cue the Bride-finding Ball. Euphrania’s King and Prince come to a compromise. A ball will be thrown and all the eligible maidens in the land as well as princesses from other lands will receive invitations. Cinderella’s stepmother insists on the best gowns for her and her daughters, and, of course, refuses to entertain the idea of Cinderella attending with them. So, when they whisk their way off to the castle for the ball, Cinderella is left alone in the gloomy kitchen with only mice for companionship. Enter Fairy Godmother. With a bit of magic, Cinderella finds herself on the way to the ball cloaked and concealed in a magic guise and calling herself Princess Incognita. Curfew applies, though, as magic can only be lended not kept. And while the Edward falls madly for her in a moment, the clock strikes and Cinderella dashes away, leaving her slipper behind.
While The Slipper and the Rose does follow the standard Charles Pernault tale, the movie goes a wee bit further. Indeed, the slipper finds Cinderella’s foot. She has her prince and all should be happily ever after, right? Well, not so. This film takes us past the standard ending and asks (and answers) the question of how could a prince marry a servant?
The Sherman Brothers- of Mary Poppin fame- scored this musical with delightful songs. You’ll smile your way through a great deal of them- shout out to What Has Love Got to Do With Being Married and Protocoligorically Correct. Clever lyrics accompany delightful music and fantastic choreography. And then there’s the whole Richard Chamberlain playing Prince Edward. There’s a word for that sort of casting: swoon.
And on the subject of how could a prince ever marry a servant? I give you, Ever After. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched this one, but suffice it to say it’s been watched beaucoup.
Unlike The Slipper and the Rose, Ever After tells the story of Cinderella without any of the supernatural magic of a fairy godmother. That is not to say that there isn’t magic in this movie. It’s positively rife with it.
Many aspects of the classic Cinderella story are in Ever After. While Cinderella is called Daniella in this rendition, she does have a mother who dies in her infancy and a father who dotes on her. This merchant father remarries a woman with two daughters and brings them back to his opulent home. The relationship between the stepmother and stepsisters and Daniella is rather amiable, if somewhat chilly. However, when Danielle’s father unexpected dies, reserving his last words of love for his daughter, Danielle’s stepmother nurses an insatiable resentment for her new daughter. This resentment blossoms in relegating Danielle to the position of servant in her own home.
Yet, as is Cinderella’s way, Danielle finds joy in her reduced circumstances. One of her great loves is reading. Her father imparted his love of reading to her. Amongst her most prized possessions is a copy of Utopia- the last gift her father gave her before his death. Her copy is dog-eared and its words have filled her darker moments with hope.
Enter pre-requisite prince. Prince Henry is feeling the strictures of his station, and, so does what anyone else would do, he runs away. At least for the day. In the forest, he meets Danielle under embarrassing circumstances- at least for her. He’s immediately taken with her feisty spirit. Then there’s their trip to a monastery where he gifts her a new copy of Utopia followed by her rescuing him from a band of marauding gypsies. All seems set for Prince Henry and Danielle to have their happily ever after, but, as with all fairy tales, there’s a villainess lurking in the shadows. One who’s not afraid to stir up trouble.
Making a movie from a fairy tale geared towards adults somehow robs it of its magic. But, in Ever After, the magic is there. And while there may be no fairy godmother, there is Leonardo Da Vinci and his supernatural gifting for invention that saves the day. I cannot recommend this film highly enough. It’s a perfect family film, to say nothing of the bolstering you’ll feel in spirit when the end credits start to roll.
Now, for a tale that borrows from Ever After in that it does not incorporate a fairy godmother, or any other supernatural elements, I give you Cenerentola (Cinderella). This two episode series is a delight. Set in the 1950s in Italy (should I repeat that- 1950s, Italy), we travel with Aurora from her girlhood with her father into her young adulthood as a servant in her own home that has been turned into a hotel. However, there’s no prince in this one. Only a handsome boy that she met as a girl who lived next door in the rambling chateau. However, by the time she’s a young woman, that neighboring house has been abandoned and Aurora has only the halcyon memory of her afternoon with the boy next door to hang on to.
Cue return of boy now a handsome man. Only, Aurora doesn’t think this man is anything like the boy she met. Rather, she thinks he’s his older brother who was a bit of a stinker. All sorts of troubles ensue, and not just for Aurora. Her stepmother is trying to stay one step ahead of the law. There’s a curmudgeon of a guest staying in the hotel who seems to have ties to the family next door- at least to their business- but who also has a particular interest in Aurora. The fella next door is having all sorts of difficulty from daddy issues to merger issues with his business. Then there’s Aurora’s girlhood dream of entering a prestigious music school to train as a pianist like her mother did. Add to all this the heartache of thwarted romance, and you have a slightly modernized take on the fairy tale classic of Cinderella is that is both engaging and sweet. Keep in mind it’s an Italian production, and while the actors do speak English, there are times when it sounds dubbed. Regardless, it’s a wonderful watch for the whole family.
Now, I know there are other versions of Cinderella out there. Which is your favorite, dear reader?