Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Snow White & the Seven Dwarves

I might have confessed this before, but as a heroine and as a film I find Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (Disney’s and other incarnations) somewhat discomfiting. There doesn’t seem much logic surrounding it, so in a way I feel like the Evil Queen in the most recent revisionist take on the tale (goodness knows why it is THIS tale which has spawned so many revisions, even Sondheim in the best revisionist take on fairytales didn’t include her, but for a throwaway song) – I’m randomly picking random things up to settle on my dislike of it/her, and I always end up at her voice. This time around her voice is just as soprano based as a I remember, but it’s the voice per se which annoys and for all her broadness in creation – Snow White is the least specific Disney heroine, you know – she isn’t quite as annoying as I have her in my mind. I still say this tale is skewered, though.

Reality and illusion – it’s a throwaway theme that, if you look hard enough, you can find in almost every literary/artistic rendering. But, since this is the tale of the beautiful queen who’s secretly evil I’m not clutching at straws.

She is the first character we're introduced to, which makes her the only Disney villain (I think) who is that lucky.

Eleanor Audley is her typically awesome self as the Evil Queen. Even if like all the characters she’s painted broadly (and she doesn’t even get a song, foul) she’s her usual amazing self. (Note: Audley went on to portray other classic evils – Lady Tremaine in Cinderella and the awesome Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty)

I thought I’d found my Best Shot Early on, in fact I went in already remembering my favourite scene of the film – Snow White’s frantic run from the Woodsman who lets her go. Everything she sees scares her and she ends up in a crumpled heap on the forest floor with evil (?) things staring out at her.

(The one in the middle was my original best shot choice.)

A shot after we’re given perspective and realise that they’re just woodland creatures and it leads to Snow White’s one unequivocally brilliant bit of dialogue.
You don’t know what I went through and all because I was afraid. I’m so ashamed.
She realises that is was her fear evoking the terrible forest images and it’s so a nice touch. Snow White is so airless of a heroine. It has nothing to do with what she suggests for pro-Feminist types, she's just very boring. She cooks, she cleans but what does she like? What makes her incensed. I do not know, and I suspect neither does she....but, the film is not about that. And I’ve found by best shot so I'm done, right? Wrong.

Still, this is, after all, a best-shot essay and not a dissertation on the oddities of the film so I’ll keep it concise. This nameless prince gives me pause. Who is he? Snow White meets him once, the hum a ditty, she falls in love with him and he magically appears when she dies. We’re presented the ultimate storytelling cop-out via text:

(Which makes me think, what of the tots that can't read. Do their parents whisper the text to them in the theatre?)

I’m still not certain how the Prince heard about her, or how the dwarves got the message out in the first place. But, he kisses her, she wakes, she leaves the dwarves – rashly – and he leads her away. Fair enough, but we end on this BEAUTIFUL shot.

My Best Shot
Which unseats the beautiful shot above which toes the line between reality and illusion, and because I’m still thinking of what’s real and what’s not and when the film’s final shot is this rather illusory shot of the prince’s castle I’m moved to think that Snow White is dead after all. What if the Prince wasn’t real? Or not a real human then. Sure, she sang that song with him – but this is a magic kingdom, right? Maybe true love’s kiss is code for kiss of death and he’s nondescript and beautiful like the prince and will lead Snow White away to a beautiful, golden, kingdom in the sky (read: Heaven).

It would explain why she, strangely, doesn’t carry the dwarves with her (something which has been done in other incarnations). And the golden light of the kingdom seems decidedly illusory and majestic and something right out of biblical texts.

Have I let my mind run away with me? Possibly, but I do love a good yarn – and the shot is beautiful nonetheless. Which is essentially what Snow White amounts to. The music is sweet, the story is piffle but its animation is beautiful.
(This entry is courtesy of Nathaniel's Best Shot series. Go read all the entries here.)

So thoughts on my theory on Snow White's fate? Are you as baffled by the popularity of the legend of Snow White?


Paolo said...

I thought of the last shot as a way of Disney advertising themselves (their logo, etc). On a deeper level it could also be that their happily ever after is this state that's yet to be explored.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

paolo no, you're wrong on both counts. it's definitely heaven :)

(speaking of the logo, though, i remember when i was young and i'd get this joyful feeling when i saw a movie beginning with that logo. good days.)