Sleeping Beauty: Dancing with the fairies
by Alfonso Rivera
- Ado Arrietta, without relinquishing one ounce of his customary audacity, lyricism and emotion, plunges us into a modern-day fairytale world that will delight the inner child deep down in every viewer
After countless screen adaptations, can such a well-known story as Sleeping Beauty still surprise us, entertain us and keep us glued to our seats? Why yes, it seems that it can. Gamely rising to this challenge is one of the most free-thinking and idiosyncratic filmmakers ever to emerge from Spain, a director who made many of his films in France, where he found refuge from the mental and financial limitations that plagued his native country under Franco’s dictatorial rule. While in Spain he has never quite shaken off the label of underground artiste, known only to curiosity-hunters who spend their time sniffing out alternative cinema’s most obscure gems, across the Pyrenees he is celebrated for the calibre of his work, his audacity and his great talent, as well as his links to a number of other filmmakers of equally avant-gardist temperament. One cannot help but smile at the fact that Ado Arrietta, or Udolfo Arrieta or Adopho Arrieta—just like his work, his name is in a constant state of flux—is presenting his latest film, Sleeping Beauty [+see also:
interview: Ado Arrietta
film profile] in the New Waves section of the 13th Seville European Film Festival, surrounded by a coterie of edgy new filmmakers half his age. For once, the old saying about youth being a state of mind doesn’t seem like such a cliché.
Filmed in and funded by France, Sleeping Beauty heralds the cinematographic resurrection of Ado Arrietta, following ten years devoted entirely to the documentary. Flaunting an ensemble cast that would be the envy of many a director (teaming the Adonis-like Niels Scheider with treasured luminaries such as Mathieu Amalric), the film drags the Grimm Brothers’ time-honoured fairytale right into the present day, but with all the unmistakable poetry and mischief we might expect from the director of Merlin. Thus, Arrietta’s original characters travel by helicopter, play the drums and snap photos with their mobile phones as they wander through a world of enchanted kingdoms, benevolent and not-so-benevolent fairies and princes capable of shattering the most evil of spells.
It’s a film infused with the dreamlike quality of a pleasant dream: the performances and the body language of the actors, who seem to be dancing even when there is no music to be heard, have a distinct air of the unreal about them. The physical, musical and scenic beauty that haunts every scene draws us, spellbound, into an imaginary magic kingdom which, thanks to a century of deep slumber, has been left untouched by the vicissitudes of recent history. Arrietta offers up the power of amnesia as an elixir to heal us of negative energy, with childlike credits—drawn by the director himself—and magic wands designed by Chus Burés adding to the visual distinctiveness of the whole; a magical fable that will charm the wide-eyed inner child inside even the most cynical of viewers. An eternal innocent himself, the director of cult classic Flammes invites us to join him in this playful new cinematic fantasy, which promises to be for Arrietta what La Belle et la Bête was for Jean Cocteau.
(Translated from Spanish)