Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sofia Coppola's "The Little Mermaid," and Other Fairy Tale Adaptations I'd Like to See

Yesterday, it was announced that Sofia Coppola would take the reins of a new adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale "The Little Mermaid." Supposedly, this new take would hew closer to Andersen's darker, more depressing original tale than the lively animated Disney version we all know and love. It's not really a stretch for Coppola, either. Yes, she's mostly made films about being bored and rich, particularly in Los Angeles. But her best films - Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette, The Bling Ring - have centered on people who feel lost in their worlds, and enter a new one to varying degrees. So thematically, it's right in her wheelhouse, and it would be great to see her stretch herself by tackling bigger, different projects (I wanted her to take the reins of a Twilight film, just to see what that would look like).

Anyway, the announcement got me thinking: since the "fairy-tale reinvention" genre is obviously here to stay for the foreseeable future, what other filmmakers would make inspiring choices to helm one of these films? Check out my suggestions, after the jump.

Park Chan-wook's Hansel and Gretel

At it's heart, "Hansel and Gretel" is a very disturbing tale of children being preyed upon, an idea that is terrifying to children and adults alike. Though he's never really made a film quite as fantastical as this, I would be curious to see what Park - who's responsible for Oldboy, Thirst, and Stoker - would do with it. This sort of predatory theme - particularly the victim(s) fighting back - is something he's explored in most of his films, and it would definitely have his trademark visual beauty in the framing. There's a violent undercurrent to this story that I think he could really sink his teeth into. My heart tells me to go with relatively younger actors for the lead roles, and someone unexpected as the witch in the candy house. Maybe Kim Hye-ja if he does it in Korean, Michelle Pfeiffer if it's in English?

Lars Von Trier's The Princess and the Pea

The very concept of this fairy tale is really bizarre: apparently "real princesses" are so fragile that even a pea under 25 mattresses can cause them immense pain. Wouldn't it be interesting to see Danish enfant terrible Von Trier - basically the 21st century's provocative answer to Hans Christian Andersen - flip this tale on its head? In his hands, he could make something that would be arty and confrontation, and would likely be the focus of controversy. But despite all the claims made against him, Von Trier does write emotionally complicated women, and it would be fascinating to see this tale filtered through his sensibilities. Obviously, Charlotte Gainsbourg would have to be the princess.

Jane Campion's Sleeping Beauty

I would love to see what Campion, a talented director with a strong feminist bent, would do with the tale of Sleeping Beauty, in which a beautiful princess is cursed by an evil fairy to slumber for 100 years, when a prince will awaken her. Campion is a master of moody atmosphere, and her version of the character would likely be a terrific, nuanced commentary on women's agency in a male-dominated world. Plus, after being underwhelmed by her miniseries Top of the Lake, I would love to see her push herself with a fantasy-based period piece (she already has a terrific period piece under her belt in Bright Star). Perhaps Holly Hunter could be the evil fairy, while a relative newcomer takes on the role of the princess.

*BONUS* Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland

I know this is a cheat, because Burton has already directed Alice in Wonderland, and the film was an ungodly abomination. So let me qualify this entry: I want to see early-'90s-era Tim Burton direct a non-Disney version of Lewis Carroll's original story. When you think about it, it's a perfect marriage of source material and filmmaker: Burton was crafting delightfully odd films like Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice, and his two Batman movies proved that he could work wonders with a blockbuster budget. His trip down the rabbit hole would have been a marvel to witness, hopefully resulting in a warped odyssey through the mind of one of the era's most original talents. Even having Johnny Depp in the role of the Mad Hatter would have worked, since at the time Depp was one of the most exciting and daring actors in Hollywood. Instead, we got 2010's appalling CGI landscapes, Burton's lack of imagination, and Depp doing a parody of a Johnny Depp character and also this monstrosity. It could have been wonderful, indeed.

Which tales would you like to see paired with which filmmaker?

**I am also very aware that not all of these are fairy tales. But anything based on a public-domain work gets lumped into "fairy-tale reinvention" by everyone else, so I assume everything is fair game here.

1 comment:

Candice Frederick said...

lol i don't hate alice in wonderland like everyone else on the planet seemingly does, but it's not great. i am rather upset about coppola's upcoming little mermaid (my favorite animated movie), but i am trying to remain hopeful. lars von trier doing a fairy tale!? omg the agony lol