La belle endormie [The Sleeping Beauty] (2010)

[Viennale.]

La belle endormie is the newest movie by Catherine Breillat, starring Carla Besnaïnou, Kerian Mayan, David Chausse and Julia Artamonov.

Plot:
A princess is borne and her evil fairy godmother predicts that she will prick her hand on a spindle when she’s 16 and die. But three younger fairies show up (a little late because they had to frollick naked in a pool) and save the princess’ life: She will prick her hand on a spindle, but when she’s six years old. Then she’ll sleep for a hundred years and wake up and still be sixteen. And while she sleeps, she may see the world in her dreams. And so it happens: Anastasia (Carla Besnaïnou) pricks her hand and finds herself with Peter (Kerian Mayan) and his mother. But Peter gets snatched away by the Snow Queen and Anastasia has to go and save him.

I was really looking forward to this film. “A feminist fairy tale retelling,” I thought, perhaps a bit naively, “what could possibly go wrong?” Well. Here’s the list: this film made no sense, was boring and the feminist part was more whathefuckery than anything else. Plus, there’s some seriously offensive gipsy* imagery.

[SPOILERS]

There was some great potential in this film. Carla Besnaïnou is a very promising actress and fit the role as younger Anastasia perfectly. I also loved the incorporation of the Snow Queen fairy tale, and not only because I love that story. It was a very fitting counterpart to Sleeping Beauty, where the heroine is so incredibly passive that it’s infuriating, while in the Snow Queen the heroine goes out into the world to save her love.

Unfortunately, it’s toward the end of the dream sequence that things veer completely off-path.When the robbers become gipsy stereotypes, it really is the point of no return. 16-year-old Anastasia (Julia Artamonov) wakes from her dream without having found her Peter. But when she wakes, Peter’s grandson Johan (David Chausse) is waiting for her – and so she falls in love with him instead, just like that. But their love affair doesn’t really go the way either of them wanted it to, is shortly interrupted by Anastasia sleeping with the grown up gipsy girl from her dream [while constantly reassuring each other that it doesn’t count because it’s only between girls. Right, lesbians? We all know that]. Then Anastasia sleeps with Johan (there’s a lot of crying involved in that) and afterwards she runs off, venturing in the world alone. When Johan finds her months later, she’s pregnant. He hits her, they fight and the movie ends with them arm in arm, though both slightly bruised.**

And that ending just blows the whole movie for me. The whole part after Anastasia wakes up was completely incomprehensible for me [if you can shed any light on this, feel free]. I know its supposed to be a parable for Anastasia growing up but what the hell?

I read an interview with Breillat where she said that girls are taught to fall in love with the guys who end up killing them [which is a bad way of putting it because it sounds like all women die through the hands of the man they love, but I know what she’s getting at: That girls are supposed to find behavior in guys cool that’s actually rather problematic]. Unfortunately, her movie goes ahead and only strengthens that outlook on life.

Summarising: The ambitions were greater than the result in this one.

*In this case, I use the term gipsy because connecting actual Roma and Sinti to these stereotypes seems at least equally offensive.

**And with this piece of dialogue, which I liked a lot:

Johan: Do you love me as before?
Anastasia: Yes, as before. Only that now, it’s after.

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