This theme of sustaining youth through taking young women’s lives is not new, as Charlize Theron portrays in her role as the Evil Queen in “Snow White and the Huntsman.”
In 1974, Paloma Picasso played the Countess Elizabeth Barthory, who murders young girls to capture eternal youth by bathing in their blood. A naked Paloma took a bath in pig's blood in director Walerian Borowczyk’s “Immoral Tales,” which screened at the Cannes Film Festival.
As I was staying in Cannes while waiting for my fiancé, Claude Picasso, to settle the Picasso estate and to inventory his art in nearby Notre Dames Des Villes, I had the opportunity to see this film. Paloma was radiant in her performance, which showed her desire to shed any restraints put on her by the family. Paloma Picasso did not care about public opinion, and I laud her for this.
And I laud Kristen Stewart for portraying Snow White with such a feminist spirit in “Snow White and the Huntsman.” Stealing the crown away from Charlize Theron is no easy feat, but finally she is outdone by the raw sincerity of Stewart, who steals your heart -- and the film.
Most of us know the story of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” yet somehow I was on the edge of my seat at times wondering what would happen.
The film begins with Snow White's mother (Liberty Ross) giving her and Prince William (Sam Clafin), the son of a nobleman, the happiest of castles for a home when suddenly the mother dies. Meanwhile, King Magnus (Noah Huntley) is overcome by loneliness until one day in the forest he comes upon a beautiful damsel dressed in rags, but with the most stunning face surrounded by golden hair.
Ravenna (Theron) possesses powers of witchcraft and enchants the king. Within a day he marries her, and on their wedding night she stabs him in his heart as she says, "Men use women, and when they are finished, they toss us aside once our youth is gone. First I'll take your life, and then I'll love you."
After murdering the King, she talks to a gold mirror-like symbol on the wall, stares into it and asks who is the fairest of them all. The mirror morphs into liquid and a figure taller than Ravenna says, 'You, my lady. Take the heart of a young woman in your hand and you will never age."
After her father's murder, Snow White is imprisoned in the top of the castle. Prince William is able to escape. Alone, Ravenna enlists the help of her brother Finn (Sam Spruell) to tend house, and one of his duties is to supply young girls to the Evil Queen so that she can steal their youth by sucking it out of them.
Years pass, and one day the mirror tells Ravenna that there is one who could be a threat to her immortality: Snow White. Finn tries to bring her to Ravenna, but Snow White escapes. Ravenna hires a strapping Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to find Snow White so that she can hold the girl’s heart in her hand and live forever.
And so the fairy tale goes. The Huntsman falls for Snow White as he sees her fight for her life in bleak woods filled with terrifying creatures. Ravenna has sent Finn to find her. There is an interlude where Snow White and the Huntsman are taken in by a village of women who scar their faces so their beauty is not a threat to the Queen. Finally Snow White meets the Seven Dwarfs, who protect her and take her to the Enchanted Forest. The poison apple is given to Snow White by Prince William, who is not who he appears to be.
The rest of the story is common knowledge. The mounting use of special effects makes a slow build and does not bombard you from the onset of the film. The forest is black in nature, as is the entire film wherever it can be; therefore, drops of red as in blood and a rose signifying hope stand out and register viscerally. The costumes all are tasteful and done so that the focus is on Ravenna and Snow White, whose chain mail outfit in the end shines triumphantly and brightly as her spirit.
While this is a dark, depressing view of the Grimm fairy tale, which was never meant to be a laughing matter, this movie is authentic in spirit to the original intentions of this story. Only by showing the bleakness can the sun shine upon this diabolical tragedy.
I recommend this film passionately. It is masterful in art direction and well acted. Its championship direction by first-time director Rupert Sanders, and bold writing by Evan Daughtery, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini, take a feminist tale and keep it a feminist tale. The Huntsman remains an admirer of Snow White and they go off into the sunset with mutual respect as friends. At its conclusion, the audience applauded, and I joined them.