Cinderella loses a slipper and gains a brand new audience
Anyone who hasn't heard of Kenneth Branagh's 'Cinderella' (2015) is either dead or off- planet. Disney started promoting it from the day Branagh agreed to direct; when Lily James (Downtown Abbey) and Richard Madden (Game of Thrones) signed on as Cinderella and the Prince it turned into Disney's pet project.
Cate Blanchett as the step mother and Helena Bonham- Carter as the fairy godmother were the cherry on top of the icing.
Breaking the stereotype
'Cinderella' follows the usual plot line with a few key changes to suit a 21st century audience- the feminist in me approves. Emphasis is less on Cinderella's beauty and more on her courage and kindness; her riding skills match the Prince's and best of all, she meets the Prince BEORE she's all dolled up for the ball. This crucial modification by Branagh breaks the fairy tale stereotype where the prince falls merely for Cinderella's beauty.
Characters are also more rounded and grey this time round. It does not match the complexity of Andy Tennant's 1998 'Ever After' (featuring Drew Barrymore), the other famous atypical Cinderella adaptation. But there's more back story to the prince, the stepmother and the sisters in this version. Even the king is given a redeeming moment seconds before his death. Following the latest trend in Hollywood to de- villainise the villains, the Stepmother Lady Tremaine's cruelty stems from grief over her beloved first husband and the realization that Cinderella will have all the opportunities in life that she will now never have.
James as Cinderella is alternatively heartbreaking and inspiring. Her contained grief is much more effective than any overpowering waterworks. Madden added layer upon layer of a young Prince in conflict between following his heart and serving his kingdom (let's not forget the dancing skills either). But Blanchett is the reigning star of dramatics in the movie. That first shot where her derby hat turns over to reveal a painted red mouth in a flawless face, smiling triumphantly is the stuff of nightmares. Disney gets full points for not delineating good and evil as beautiful and ugly like in the animated versions. In 'Cinderella', evil is beautiful too and takes more than a passing look to detect.
Dreams and magic
Costumes and effects are, without a doubt, mind- blowing. They fully merit the special 'Cinderella' exhibition that was held in London. The glass slipper is actually Swarovski crystal, as are the millions of tiny lights we see in Cinderella's ball gown (yep, they're real). The burgundies and emerald greens and heavy fabrics of the stepmother's costumes contrast well with Cinderella's pastel, floaty dresses.
Lighting was truly magical throughout the movie. CGI added lots of sparkle but special LED lights also made things special, like the fairy godmother's costume. Overall, the movie was light, in keeping with the fairytale theme and the smooth camera movements, the wide panning shots that swooped into close-ups and familiar angles made it an easy watch.
The score was composed by Patrick Doyle (Thor). The music was romantic and drew from several Disney classics such as 'Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo' and 'A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes'. Interestingly, Branagh uses the folk song 'Lavender's Blue' as a motif that links Cinderella to her golden childhood. But instead of the line 'When I am king dilly dilly/ You shall be queen,' Cinderella always emphasizes 'You must love me dilly dilly/ For I love you' removing the highly materialistic underpinnings of the original Cinderella fable. The only complaint I have is that 'Cinderella' could've been more revolutionary, perhaps darker. But this is Disney and 'Into the Woods' is as dark as it'll go. But in all fairness, 'Cinderella' is worth the ridiculously overpriced movie ticket in Sri Lankan cinemas. It will teach future generations of children that the "Princess" doesn't always need rescuing, and the "Prince" isn't always charming. And that evil isn't always ugly.
Asuka Randeniye - www.dailynews.lk