fantastic Cinema : the myths revisited, legends diverted

With grandiose, poetry or irony, the fantastic cinema likes to revisit the myths, legends, and the major figures of the literature. I propose to you today an overview of the different treatments.

When it came to the cinema to find stories to put in images, two obvious choices are presented to the filmmakers : they either made up themselves of untold stories, with their own stories, their own sense of narration and their own universe, they piochaient in a variety of cultural heritages pre-existing, to adapt the stories whose titles were already recognizable to the public. And the big screen became a support extending from the voice of the storyteller and the page of literature, bringing to the myths and legends that had permeated the collective unconscious, a form of new aesthetics, and even sometimes noteworthy variation on the themes covered as much as the twists and turns of the story narrated.

For filmmakers working in the genre of fantasy, to tap into the pool of cultural medieval legends, moral tales and other myths worn in the literature, has several advantages. To justify the anchor of their story in the fantastic, a genre that may initially put off some viewers, the filmmakers summon up just a literary figure in popular and identifiable, as well as a subject with the mysterious and supernatural that has already previously attracted the attention of these spectators.

It is through this strategy that Christophe Gans chooses to approach the public from the beginning of the 2000s, in a context which seemed then to think that the fantastic was the poor relation of the French cinema. Gans started his projects when he is convinced that he will be able to propose a new vision of a monument of popular culture; and if some of the projects have unfortunately never been brought to the screen (Bob Morane, Rahan, Fantomas), the ambitious man managed to deliver his personal approach to the legend of the Beast of Gévaudan with the Pact of The Wolves. In the light of the film, the intention of Gans is clear : it has chosen as the plot one of the most famous mysteries to have shaken France, it is better to use as the common denominator of cultures, and imaginaries, in the public, and call the result a spectacle stirring influences as diverse, ranging from the gothic of Hammer films, to dance, martial arts, and expressing with generosity, a love for film genres and popular shows.

Hans has understood the potential of spectacular lies in the stories haunting the minds of viewers for generations, even centuries. We can then consider some of the films as the books illustrations, animated and with added special effects. Gans pushes more about this principle with his adaptation of the tale The beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve, of which the transitions appear precisely in the form of pages of a gigantic book-to-screen, who turn to mark a jump in time or a change of venue. Since the beginning of the decade, we note that Hollywood is reinvesting frequently the domain of the european fairy tale, as well at Disney (Alice in wonderland, Hex, Cinderella) than in other majors such as Universal (Snow White and the huntsman), having understood that this basic material was conducive to artistic directions, and dramatic floods of images of synthesis, are the two arguments crucial to a blockbuster, supposed to attract a wide audience.

Therefore, the versions of these popular stories can be as varied as the artistic directions may be different. When Disney offers its version of a colourful and incredibly kitsch Snow White, Universal response in the same year with a variation of darker and more epic of the same tale of the brothers Grimm. The own of the tale is precisely to find his form in the patterning of recurring elements and identifiable (a quest, a magical object, a potent antagonist, and cruel), the fiscal year can thus leave a margin for filmmakers wishing to add their eccentricities visual. Tim Burton did not, therefore, deprived of distorting the breeding ground of the european and sometimes nothing agreed, in which had originated the story of Hansel and Gretel of the brothers Grimm, in the form of a casting of actors of asian origins, including Michael Yama bringing to the role of the witch, his use of atypical, come to the theatre of pantomime japanese.

These aesthetic variations on the same theme go so far as to compose décorums of the most unexpected in which take place the most emblematic elements of the master narratives. Starting from the premise that the message delivered by these stories work to civilizations in their foundations, not to decline under the effect of a mode-formal, or of a current of thoughts; the filmmakers want to prove that their impact on the public remains relevant and can be applied in contexts quite different from those portrayed in the original. As well, Terry Gilliam chooses the décor of New York at the end of the twentieth century, The Fisher King, the film traversed over its dialogues and its challenges by a narrative source, namely the legend of the King Fisher on the quest for the holy Grail. In literature we call “hypertextualité”, the relationship between the two works; Gilliam we propose here the replay of a medieval legend (the hypotexte) in the framework of a romantic comedy (the hypertext) to drop down to the contemporary era.

If Gilliam has chosen to imbue his film in the aura of a myth in which one can build a corpus of texts written over the centuries (Chrétien de Troyes, Robert de Boron, Sir Thomas Malory, etc); other legends can also serve well as a scenario, simply by their continued existence in the collective imagination, without the need for direct references to a particular work. The director, irish Neil Jordan draws as well in the culture of his country for his film, Ondine, where there does appear to be a selkie. In celtic mythology, a selkie is a sea creature that is capable of removing its seal skin to take the appearance of a woman of uncommon beauty.

However, all the filmmakers do not necessarily have an explicit reference to a myth or a figure illustrates; and some focus on the culture of the public, as well as its ability to decipher the symbolism of the images. The character, the creature, or the schema of a narrative convened may as well appear as a watermark on the screen by means of reminiscences more or less declared, or even gimmicks visual clearly identifiable. The game’s stylistic may also apply to other genres as fantasy, as evidenced by the black comedy Freeway de Matthew Bright where the skirt bright red of the heroine pursued by a sexual predator, and is reminiscent of the color of the garment emblematic of the Little Red riding Hood. David Slade will resume this idea in his thriller Hard Candy in which the hoody of a teenage girl also evokes the chaperone of the heroine of Charles Perrault.

The universe is atypical of some filmmakers can provide these to develop a narrative, which is a replay or a direct representation of the story or of the legend that provides the gimmick visual. David Lynch is allowed to intervene in Sailor and Lula, Glinda, the good fairy of the North break of the Wizard of Oz, appearing to a Sailor in the same soap bubble giant in the film of Victor Fleming. Sailor is a man with the temperament of fiction, cradled in the illusions of the great myths of modern americans, it is logical, therefore, that the prophet who appears is an icon of Hollywood Technicolor.

If we could see with the above examples, it is quite possible to retrieve a mythical figure or an aesthetic element in its original format (the tale oral or literary) to adapt it to a different register : the fresco of epic, black comedy, road movie auteurisant; the codes of the original format can be preserved, or at least reconsidered to serve the tone and theme of a film. The tale is associated with since the classic period, to a covered entity and a discourse more or less encrypted on fears for children. Thus, in the collective unconscious, the formulas inherent in this type of story such as “there was once” or “one fine day”, are associated to an audience of children (or adults tapping into their inner child) seeking in this narrative of ritualized transgression of the forbidden, as well as an externalisation of their fears and their questions moral.

Therefore, the aesthetic form and narrative of some of the films are explained by the fact that they espouse the codes of the tale, its “metatext”; as for example, The Company of wolves by Neil Jordan , who revisits the themes of Little red riding Hood in the form of a dream developed by a young teen. Knowing that the work revisited is a short story, one perceives, of course, the share of unreal, unlikely to be assumed by the film, and his desire to appear as the reverie of a character train to leave the child and discover his sexuality as an adult.

As evidenced by the example of The Company of wolves, the fantastic cinema plays frequently with the codes and figures of the tale, often take a perverse pleasure in divert the look of childlike. In dealing with irony that part of our childhood, the filmmakers of the kind we offer at the same time to reconsider with new eyes the cruelty and the violence inscribed in the DNA of these stories, all by using just this kind of violence and this cruelty to think of a show fun, bantering, in which the audience is an accomplice patented. It is through this angle of attack uninhibited that Tommy Wirkola sets the scene Hansel and Gretel : witch Hunters, under the pretext of developing an action film where two famous children have grown up to become fighters over-training, mid-way between Blade and Van Helsing version of Hugh Jackman.

The offset tasty between the tone of the original work and its treatments is particularly evident in the genre of horror. The director, Mark Jones uses, for example, the character surly is very famous of Leprechaun, a creature from irish folklore, as the pretext for a series of murders grand-guignolesques, watching with a smirk. But if it is a myth that should logically find its place in the genre of horror, this is what good old father christmas, a symbol of the hope and innocence of children. Jalmari Helander takes the symbol against the walk for a swim Father Christmas’s Origins in an atmosphere disturbing, is seen from the point of view of a child in finland. Michael Dougherty also chooses the feast of Christmas as a context for Krampus, where it is this time of the for evil of Saint-Nicolas, terrorising an american family in a comedy horror peeping to the irreverence of Gremlinsthe cult film of Joe Dante.

Once is not custom, I wanted to conclude this article by referring not to a work to the big screen, but a television series in which the creator (also author of 24 episodes out of the 27 in total), according to me, accomplished the feat of reinventing several founding myths of the fantastic genre, while preserving or rehabilitating their state-of original spirit in the eyes of the spectators today. Screenwriter John Logan has, no doubt, thought Penny Dreadful as a package “all-stars” of the large figures of fantastic literature (Dracula, Frankenstein, the werewolf, Dorian Gray, etc…), in the manner ofAlan Moore and his League of extraordinary gentlemen. A commercial argument is clever, which allows you to build on the reputation of these characters, and to guarantee to the lovers of the genre an artistic direction that is in tune with this part of the anglo-saxon culture and its gothic atmosphere.

An aesthetic quality that allows you to captivate our attention in the first episodes; but where Penny Dreadful arises in the implementation of coherent and creative, it is in his capacity to be installed over its three seasons, a theme through the different arches narrative, namely, the status of women. The demon who seeks to capture the spirit of Vanessa Ives uses the guilt of the young woman, and the image it has of itself as the custodian of the education puritan of the nineteenth century; Lily Frankenstein seeks to take revenge on his previous life as a prostitute, raising an army of women oppressed by male domination; Victor Frankenstein is torn between his romantic idea of love and his desire to submit Lily to his own will, is to prevent emancipation. By rewriting the trajectories of each of these figures, illustrious, Logan manages to do honour to their nature first, and to register them in his personal vision of an era and a culture.

If you want to share your enthusiasm for the reappropriation of the myth of the mermaid by the burlesque , Stephen Chow, the adaptation of south korea the player of flute of Hamelin in The Piper, the unforgettable performance of Christopher Lambert in Beowulf, or the nanardisation flamboyant egyptian mythology in Gods of Egypt; don’t hesitate to leave us your comments.

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