The other day, I made my way to the cinema to see a tale almost as old as time itself. The plight of ‘Cinderella’ is a story ingrained in the mind of every (privileged) enough girl’s mind and (to avoid any shouts of sexism), many the boy’s too. So, it’s not difficult to assume that Disney’s new interpretation was already setting itself an uphill battle.
With all the modern tricks of this technological era, revisiting and re-mouldings of classic tales are rife. In the, not too distant future, we can expect a re-imagining of ‘Ghostbusters’. We have already seen a recent reboot of ‘Dracula’ in ‘Dracula Untold’ and, looking back a bit further, we had a modern interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic, ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, in ‘10 Things I Hate about You’.
From inception, all of these films have set themselves up for stiff critique, as they already have something to measure up to (such as the original movie or novel). ‘Cinderella’ however, is an even bigger mountain to climb. In most people’s minds (both young and old), Cinderella is (and may always be) the epitome and embodiment of what a princess should be. She is kind, gracious, forgiving and even comes with her own personal ‘Fairy Godmother’. Also, there are few things in life that fill a young (or old) soul with hope as much as a classic tale of ‘rags to riches’.
In 1950, Disney released their animated version of the tale and, it probably goes without saying that this is what most critics will compare and draw parallels from. However, this interpretation comes complete with talking mice (with an instinct for fashion) and a musical number for an emotional upheaval. In Kenneth Branagh’s interpretation, however, the only ‘fluff’ added are the CGI and camera tricks we now come to expect in a film of our time, the rest of the tale, however, relies on its script and its actors.
This new offering lays the somewhat grim realities of this classic fairy tale, bare. We are faced with true loss, pain, corruption and manipulation, all of which occur within the first section of the film. It is from this adversity that the true lesson of the film comes to light and (despite popular opinion) this isn’t just to marry rich…
Through not sugar-coating these less savory aspects of this tale, Chris Weitz, through his script and Branagh, through his direction, sets the audience up for a huge ‘ happy-ever-after’, worthy of any adored Disney feature. Also, because of the stark contrast, even the more cynical of audiences may be more inclined to cheer Cinderella on in her quest of rags to riches.
It also has to be said that it is a difficult task to step into the shoes of someone that has been idolised for decades, let alone one that was created by the stroke of a brush. ‘Lily James’ however, has managed to rid our minds of the 2 dimensional creation and has brought ‘Cinderella’ straight into reality. At times I would even argue that Lily James’ performance was even more charming than Prince Charming himself.
However, in my opinion, the real star of the show was the (boo hiss) evil Step Mother of the tale. Cate Blanchett took on the mantle of the classic villain and managed to stray from the pantomime and instead offered a more believable performance of malicious envy and cruel intentions.
So yes, in all, I would say that Branagh is successful in bringing Cinderella into the modern era. Although his setting is as old as the tale itself, his Cinderella is a role model for any young girl of this era. Gone are the assumptions that Cinderella is gold-digger and instead comes the moral that kindness and forgiveness can get you far, and that, is a lesson worthy of any princess, whatever their age.