When the queen of a kingdom dies shortly after giving birth to a beautiful daughter who has 'skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood and hair as black as a raven’s wings', the King is grief-stricken and must raise his daughter alone. Years later he finds and marries another woman who turns out to be a wicked, deceitful witch, killing the King soon after their wedding, and plunging the kingdom into darkness.
Like most folk tales, this story was meant as a cautionary tale for children and adults, warning against overprotecting children, making them unprepared for the real world and easily deceived by others when they have to fend for themselves and cope with danger. It can also be seen as a coming of age tale as daughter competes and comes in conflict with her mother for the affections of a father and husband.
The vain witch Queen, Ravenna, has the power to prolong her life and stay beautiful by eating the hearts of birds and consuming the youth of women. She consults a magical mirror and perceives the slain King’s daughter as a threat to her power when the mirror tells her that Snow White is the fairest in the land. She decides to lock her up in a tower in order to one day consume her heart.
This movie accurately depicts the brutal primitive time period of legendary Dark Age Europe with creepy dark forests, medieval castles, Tree Trolls, enchanted forests full of fairies and woodland creatures, and the seven dwarves as wild woodmen. Visually, the movie is a mix of Ridley Scott’s Legend (1986) and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings (2001), filmed in scenic locations around Scotland, Wales and England, that give it a natural and believable look. Even some of the more fantastic elements of the story are grounded in reality, making the experience very immersive and authentic.
When Snow White escapes her castle prison, the envious Ravenna hires a huntsman to find her in the dark forest. The original story is quite grim and gruesome as the cannibalistic Queen demands that the huntsman cut out Snow White’s heart and liver as proof of her death, which she then intends to eat, believing it will rejuvenate her by absorbing the essence of Snow White’s beauty.
The wicked step-mother Queen is played brilliantly by Charlize Theron with a show stealing performance. Her beauty is matched only by her sadistic envy. Snow White, as played by Kristen Stewart from the Twilight series, is not the passive, submissive homemaker of the original folktale. In this more exciting and emotionally satisfying tale of sorrow and longing, Snow White grows into a strong and determined warrior princess who leads an army of loyal men, in a brave attack on the wicked Queen to regain her father’s throne. She looks at times to be a Joan of Arc type of strong female presence and reflects a more contemporary role model for young girls today.
I thought the film captured the power and essence of the original Brothers Grimm tale quite well, while adding elements from other fairy tales into the mix. This movie may be too scary for young children but adults will definitely enjoy this diabolical and sinister take on an old favorite fairy tale. For those who grew up with the Disney cartoon and have never read the original tales, I highly recommend reading them. They're much gloomier and creepier but also more interesting.