22 April 2010 | sonnyschlaegel
The whole world and a new pair of skates
There are two Russian adaptations of this fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, made within less than ten years, the animated version of 1957 and this live-action movie of 1966. The first version is nearer to the original tale most of the time. In the second version, some chapters have been left out. In the fourth chapter, much has been changed and much was added that is not in the tale. This version is apparently based on an adaptation (for the stage) by Yevgeni Shvarts (or "Yevgheny Schwartz"), which probably explains the higher number of changes.
In both versions, a narrator has been added, in this version the fairy story teller Andersen, played by Valeri Nikitenko, in the older version a character from another tale by Hans Christian Andersen, Ole Luk-Oie. The end has also been changed more or less in both adaptations, and both leave out those parts of the story that (directly) have to do with Christianity, for example Gerda's prayer and the song lines "Roses bloom and cease to be / But we shall the Christ-child see". This is probably due to the fact that Russia was a communist country back then. But the core and the basic message of the story are there in both versions: Kay is robbed of his feelings and abducted by the Snow Queen to her palace in the far north. But without feelings a human being isn't really human any more. Gerda misses her best friend Kay and has to try to get to the Queen's palace and make his heart of ice become warm again. At this point the live-action version is nearer to the original than the animated version, which leaves out the Snow Queen's promise to Kay: if in "the icy game of reason" he manages to form the word "eternity" out of some pieces of ice "you shall be your own master, and I will give you the whole world and a new pair of skates". The outcome of this game is probably an important part of the message of the story - it probably means that pure reason, cold logic, can not lead to eternity - only love can.
The adaptation for the screen makes a good impression overall, for example the actors' performances and the music by Nadezhda Simonyan. The special effects, though, are not very good, for example they inserted animated shots (which were not taken from the '57 version) in some sequences that would have been difficult to do as live-action.
There are lots of adaptations of this story, animated and live-action, filmed stage adaptations, episodes from fairy tale series. I have seen one when I was a child, but which one was it? This one, or perhaps another one? It's too long ago to remember. But I remember that the story really impressed me. The Snow Queen gave me a proper scare. A woman who can turn a small boy's heart into a lump of ice. How easily one can become immersed in the imaginary world of a movie as a child. Everything seems to be practically as real as reality. Even if the special effects are bad. As an adult, one is not - unfortunately? luckily? - as easily impressed by a movie. But the Snow Queen in this adaptation, played by Natalya Klimova, is I think awe-inspiring enough for today's children also to be able to have an exciting time watching this movie. As to this I think the scene in which the Snow Queen is looking at Kay and Gerda through the window is particularly well done. Her white over-sized face makes her look like a menacing giant and her appearing is accompanied by dramatic music.
Conclusion: I think it wouldn't have been a bad idea to stay closer to the original tale, and, as I've mentioned before, the special effects could have been better. And the robber girl's cute animated rabbits in the '57 version, which I haven't mentioned before, are of course missing from this version, there's only a female robber chief who looks like Brezhnev. Still I think that it is an all in all good adaptation of the fairy tale that will probably be fun to watch for children and that grown up fans of fairy tale movies will probably also like. Fans of animated movies will probably prefer the '57 version. I think it is about as good as the live-action version (7 out of 10 points for each). But the later version also includes the Snow Queen's promise to Kay (see above) and I liked the music better, so I think it's slightly preferable. Dosvidanye.