THE SPECTACULAR re-imagining of my favorite Walt Disney movie in the hands of its executive producer Angelina Jolie brings the magnificent Maleficent into territory that Disney would never, ever have tread. Having screenwriter Linda Woolverton on the project made it possible, with Maleficent making big bank the first weekend it opened, $170 million globally.
Sleeping Beauty was my favorite Disney film, not only because of the adapted Tchaikovsky score, but also because of the artistic majesty and magic of Eyvind Earle‘s drawings, which I’ve marveled at forever.
Reviewers have complained the movie is “bad,” some saying it’s too violent for PG. People forget that Walt Disney could be a cruel storyteller. Take Old Yeller, which rendered me sleepless and inconsolable for days afterwards. I had no problem with Jolie’s horns, nor the violence that is often present in fairy tales. The IMAX and 3D effects fell short, even as the Oscar award winning art director, Robert Stromberg, had a team who produced spectacular artistic flourishes, though the film received very mixed reviews.
Through it all, it’s Woolverton’s storyline that soars.
The scene where Maleficent is drugged by her beloved Stefan, who then robs her of her wings, is horrifying and clear in its metaphorical intent and ultimate impact. Nothing prepares you for Jolie’s reaction as she awakens from unconsciousness, her plaintive screams and writhing over what she’s lost harrowing for a very good reason.
“We were very conscious, the writer [Linda Woolverton] and I, that it was a metaphor for rape,” Jolie said of the harrowing sequence, in which Maleficent’s wings are stolen as she’s in a drug-induced sleep. “This would be the thing that would make her lose sight. At a certain point, the question of the story is what could possibly bring her back?” Jolie, 39, said.
– Angelinia Jolie on the BBC Radio’s Women’s Hour [US Weekly]
Feminists everywhere await the comments of George Will.
In the end Maleficent gets back her wings and soars once more, making herself whole in a way that rape victims experience through great internal struggle.
It’s not like rape and Sleeping Beauty can ever be separated. The sexual overtones of the very theme, that on her 16th birthday she will prick her finger on a spindle then fall into a death sleep, is metaphorical as well. But there is also where the story originally began.
However, it’s worth noting that Sleeping Beauty has always been a story about rape. In the earliest known version of the tale””the Italian “Sun, Moon and Talia,” by Giambattista Basile””the princess is not awakened by “true love’s kiss,” or by a kiss at all. She’s discovered by a king who repeatedly rapes her while she’s unconscious. She gives birth to two children in her sleep, before one of those children dislodges the splinter in her finger and wakes her up. Later versions of the tale (including the version recorded by the Grimm Brothers, or by Charles Perrault, who’s credited as a writer on Maleficent) censor this ending, to make it more chaste and less violent. But that central image””a man “kissing” an unconscious woman””made it into the Disney version, and has survived into the present day. – Sady Doyle [In These Times]
Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent is not only worth seeing, it’s important to see. It’s just far more grown up in themes than simple kids’ movies. Fairy Tales aren’t always sweetness and light and they shouldn’t be. There are terrifying things out there and having your parents or a loved one close by when you watch or experience a nightmare can help a child decipher what’s real and what is not.
Maleficent is a spectacular re-imagining of the fairy tale that makes it modern, as well as feminist. So anyone viewing it should be warned that it isn’t sanitized, with the dramatic sexual morality tale at the heart of Maleficent’s own evolution and making peace with her original crime: putting a curse on an innocent child.
The inverted storytelling on the awakening of Aurora is heartbreaking, but it’s Lana Del Rey‘s haunting rendition of “Once Upon a Dream” that is worth the price of admission. I particularly appreciate it that you’ve got to wait through the credits, which I always do, to enjoy it.
h/t Huffington Post