(I Also Write Children's Books!)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Snow White And The Betrayed Writer

I have just returned from seeing Snow White And The Huntsman at the movie theater, and I felt compelled, even obligated by duty to blog about it.  Not because movie reviews are in any way my job, but because I have an opinion on this movie specifically as a writer.

First, I didn't like the movie.  I hated the movie.  It angered me.  I still liked seeing it once for the thinking it provoked.  I was struck very early on while watching it by a disconnect.  I was idly evaluating the writing, because even in a bad movie there are lessons to be learned.  What I noticed was that the dialog and events did not seem to belong to the actual movie I watched.  As the movie went on, my opinion crystalized.  Snow White And The Huntsman is a well written movie directed horribly.  The story is a classic fairy tale, padded with lots of new fairy tale stuff to make it movie length.  It has monsters and birds that lead the innocent girl to a snowy white horse, and a dark forest, and a wicked enchantress.  The story is grand and fantastic, as in 'a fantasy', wholly unrealistic and aiming at dramatic and archtypal instead.

The movie is directed like Braveheart.  Actually, the director seems to have seen a number of movies he liked, and scenes that as written could be depicted any number of ways became eerily reminiscent of LOTR, the Narnia movies, and a very blatant rip from Mononoke Hime.  But mostly he arranged costumes, music, makeup, and directed the acting to be gritty and realistic.  Lots of dirty, tangled hair, very little background music, stuttering performances where people stop to have moments of weakness.  This does not combine well with a fairy tale story.  The most fantastic and magical moments, with the troll and the White Hart, and the fairies, and so on, and a fair amount more so on, look utterly ridiculous and out of place.  Similarly, you can't get interested in or process the human drama of the actors' portrayals, because every once in awhile someone will give a ridiculously hokey speech, or do something as unlikely and stylized as finding a white horse waiting for her outside the castle.

In some cases the directing and writing didn't just clash, the director didn't seem to know what he was reading.  When a dwarf dies, he's all gasping and panicking.  A single tear falls from Snow White's cheek onto his, and he calms down.  He still dies, but he dies bravely and at peace.  Except the director didn't get the memo, and while it happened, I had to be looking for it.  I was looking for it, because they'd just had a scene where the originally surly and almost evil dwarfs warm up to Snow White around a campfire.  The scene as written was one where Snow White's beauty and purity compelled them to love her, as it does everyone in the movie.  It came off as a random and squalid dwarf party, made worse by one dwarf being really stalkery and pressing his face to her breasts.  And how do I know what it was supposed to be like?  Because, after sitting there noticing all this, a couple of scenes later the blind prophet dwarf explains specifically that Snow White has this effect on people.  It had been going on all through the movie, it was just hard to see because the director either didn't figure it out, or his determination to make the actors behave like vulnerable and realistic human beings obscured it.

When Snow White rises from the dead after being poisoned, the blind dwarf turns to look before she walks out the door of the church.  Except the director already had background people moving around, and the process goes so fast it looks like she's already left the building.  Then she gives a grand and symbolic speech that's wildly out of character that everyone acts like is totally wise and moving even though it's glaringly weird.  She mentions in passing in the speech that when the evil enchantress killed her she learned all about her magic and destiny and stuff, but it disappears in this speech that seems awkward because Snow White delivers it in a mud-colored courtyard, in the rain, surrounded by filthy and haggard people, in a cracking voice.  If the director had so much as added a white glow or cleaned her up to her white dress, it would have been delivered wisdom from beyond the grave.

To sum up:  A well written movie ruined by an incompetent director who seemed to want to make a different movie.  Actually, several different specific movies.  As a writer, this interested me, so I am sharing my reaction.

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