As a writer, I find myself in love with film. I think we can all say film and novels go hand in hand. Today we see most blockbuster films coming directly from novels written by award winning authors. Some films do better than others, but all book related movies seem to be the most popular. I saw the film “Black Swan” the other night and before I tell you what I thought of it, I’m going to give you a history lesson of sorts on another film, The Red Shoes (1948). This is a film I watched over and over as child.
“The Red Shoes” was written and based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. (Other fairy tales he wrote included “The Little Mermaid”, “The Princess and the Pea”, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, “The Little Match Girl”, “The Snow Queen”, “Thumeblina”, “The Wild Swans”, “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Steadfast Tin Soldier”). Interestingly enough, Hans’s father was an independent shoemaker, with a workshop in their living room.
In “The Red Shoes” story, there’s a shoemaker who plays a strong role in creating the life of the shoes themselves. The shoes tempt a customer to place them on their feet and then the shoes take hold and dance the wearer to death (Some might say it was the story of Hans himself). It’s a dark story of desire and passion for art which ultimately in the movie version, takes hold of the actress playing its role; exactly like “The Black Swan”. Both stories are about ballerinas who get their huge break by the owner of the ballet company taking them on as the lead role of a new ballet. Both stories end with the lead actresses’ death because of the roles they play which over take over their lives (Both movies also became award winning films).
These are all similar aspects of the two films and there’s many more but I think you get the idea. The differences however, are the take on the stories. “The Red Shoes” is romantic, driven, and very mystical. The “Black Swan” takes a stronger approach of a psycho/sexual thriller; both films were written for the current audiences tastes. Now the similarities of the films are uncanny. I think the most interesting portion is how these roles not only showed duelality, but, have greatly affected the lives of the actresses themselves.
The lead of “The Black Swan” Natalie Portman physically acts out metamorphosing into a Black Swan. Although her role is psychotic and dark she sees her future as her aged mother; a retired ballerina who ended her career because of her pregnancy. In real life Natalie Portman finds herself pregnant after acting the role in film by the choreographer of the very same film. Moira Shearer, the lead in “The Red Shoes” experienced welcoming a child following her film with the headlines from the “Sydney Morning Herald”, “Pink Booties for Red Shoes”.
Most stories that are popular and have resonance; in this case it seems that Hans Christian Andersen was the base of this resonance. I enjoyed watching “The Black Swan” and found Natalie Portman brilliant in her role. The direction was superb, costuming lovely, and the film kept me on edge of my seat. I don’t think it’s a film for everyone. It does borderline horror, unlike “The Red Shoes”. So, for those who have issues watching lesbian love scenes and bloody images I say watch “The Red Shoes”. It’s pretty much the same but without all the smut.
Good stories have a tendency to come back time and time again. This doesn’t mean as authors we need to reinvent the wheel. Many times we need to look at great stories and tell them to the generation we live in. Sometimes that calls for us to use elements from older stories into our own creation. Take a look at stories you loved as a child. See how you can create that same magic today. I would however, prefer you to keep it cleaner. If you do come up with something, maybe you’ll be the next famous person sitting at the Oscars?