Dark side to well-known legend
Change of tone on trend: Cinema increasingly transforming children’s stories into thrilling adult fantasies
opens on a sombre note: the Stahlberg children face “their first Christmas without their mother”. It’s a curious twist which appears neither in the original fairytale by E.T.A. Hoffmann nor Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet.
Heroine Clara Stahlberg (Mackenzie Foy), soon faces a whole range of spooky creatures – including a wonderfully creepy Helen Mirren as Mother Ginger – bent on destroying the magical realms her late mother created.
But this change of tone is right on trend. For the past decade or so, cinema has increasingly transformed well- known children’s stories into chilling adult fantasies.
Terry Gilliam’s 2005 film
explored the dark reality and sometimes horror behind the familiar stories.
(2012) and its follow up,
(2016) aimed to draw on the popularity of action-fantasies such as
(2001-3) and the epic TV drama (2011-19).
(2013) re-imagines the eponymous lost children of Grimm’s original tale as gun slinging professional killers.
We’re seeing the same sort of thing on television, too. Netflix’s latest release,
re-imagines the popular 1990s sitcom, starring Melissa Joan Hart as the teenage witch, as “something a lot darker and scarier”.
But what is behind this focus on the darker side of fairy tales? If looking closely at the core of most of these stories, we realise that they almost always have a rather dark core.
In Grimm’s version of the ugly step sisters mutilate their feet to fit into the golden slippers, while the evil queen in is forced to dance herself to death in red-hot shoes. Yet, for a long time, cinematic representations of these stories tended to eschew the scarier bit and firmly focused on the happily ever after.
Psychological studies on fairy tales have drawn a distinction between myth and fairy tale – noting that one has a tragic and one has a happy ending. Many of the recent cinematic re-tellings of classic fairy tales blur the already shaky boundaries between myth and magic. This is illustrated nicely in which turns the ballet’s fight between the Mouse King and the gingerbread soldiers into
MACKENZIE Foy plays Clara Stahlberg in a dark take on the classic