Friday, February 20, 2015

The Snow Maiden

Snegurotchka; animated fantasy/ musical, Russia, 1952; D: Ivan Ivanov-Vano, Alexandra Snezhko-Blotskaya, S: Irina Maslenikova, V. Shvetsov, L. Ktitorov

The King of Winter and his wife, Queen Spring, have a daughter, Snegurochka, who likes to play with birds and rabbits. However, Snegurochka is enchanted with the songs of shepherd Lel and decides to go to his village despite the objections of her father. In the spring, Snegurochka tries to meet Lel, but she is unable to feel love, and her presence complicates matters further because a man from the village, Mizguir, falls in love with her and abandons his fiance. Snegurochka begs her mother to give her the ability to love. She receives that emotion, but since she is made out of snow, that warm feeling causes her body to melt and disappear at the wedding with Mizguir, who commits suicide from grief.

One of the early examples of Russian feature length animation, "The Snow Maiden" is an appropriately opulent and elegant fairy tale, with a tragic ending that gives it weight. While the narrative handling of the story may seem contrived at times - since viewers unaware of the folk tale may at first be completely confused at first as to what these fantasy characters represent - in the end it gives a finely circled out film with a clear message and a point, as well as surprisingly humble, selfless ode to love. There are too many unecessary musical episodes (for instance, when four girls and four guys are holding hands and sing about threshing the millet with horses) which disrupt the storyline, and several moments seem odd, but there is just enough charm and spark to carry the film (the opening sequence where the birds are dancing in the snow; the king who tries to settle the dispute with Mizguir who abandoned his fiance for Snegurochka...). At 65 minutes, it is a fleeting, albeit honest animated film. The animation reaches rotoscopic outlines at times, and is reminiscent of earlier American animated films "Gulliver's Travels" and "Snow White", but it is still one step behind the first one, and two steps behind the latter one in overall conjuring up of magic, emotions and style of the classic animated genre.


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