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A Grand Experiment, and a Lot of Fun
on July 18, 2014
As a purist of medieval history, I was prepared to be horrified by this film (and I don't mean in a good way), after seeing mixed reviews. I have to admit that the first 20 minutes or so was an adjustment, for that reason. The era is undefined (I laughed at the log cabins, the women constantly carrying baskets, fishing net hanging on the wall). I couldn't figure out whether it was just lazy filmmaking - lack of research. But then I realized it is intentional. The era is intentionally vague. Everything is vague, in order to lead you into a beautiful dreamland. And beautiful it is. The set is stunning. The acting is superb (check out that stellar cast list!). The film is experimental, campy on purpose, and a blast. Amanda Seyfried is breathtakingly beautiful, as always, and up to the script, as always. Gary Oldman is great, as is Julie Christie. Lucas Haas nearly stole the show. And sexy up-and-comer Max Irons is terribly dashing in the role and swoonworthy - he played the part straight, with great earnestness, and has you believing every cell in his body is honorable and true.
I felt transported from beginning to end. I think that to assume it was trying to be a contemporary horror film, an adult film a la Twilight, or anything other than it is, is a mistake; it is intentionally simple as a story (with a neat twist), not because the filmmakers are catering to a pubescent audience, but because they wanted to retain the basic feel of a fairy tale, despite adult overtones in theme. As a piece of film art, it is brave and never less than interesting. The filmmakers understand the magic of a fairy tale at its core: the charm of the story is that the romance is sweet and simple, while the wolf is a symbol of terror; the juxtaposition is what creates the fairy tale flavor - it's what kept us listening wide-eyed as kids. I think this was a grand experiment. As a professional novelist, I appreciate innovation and daring, and I think that is what was present here.
Someone else commented that the adult themes were closer to the foundation of the original tale. I actually wrote a paper at university about the metaphorical meanings, historically speaking, in common fairy tales. People in earlier centuries looked for and more readily understood, metaphors in morality tales, while in the modern era we are conditioned to read things as literal. Red Riding Hood is traditionally a metaphor for the dangers of rape. Young girls wandering too far from home (the woods - where anything can be lurking, including men), encountering strangers. Disobedience, nonconformity, and independence in young women leading to disaster. It was originally intended as a warning tale. ("Red" symbolizes lust, daring, independence, and evil, as well as blood.)