I first became aware of the new film Gretel and Hansel in the pages of Fangoria. Yes, I live under a rock and don’t always know what’s new and cool. Anyway, the discussion in the interview between star Sophia Lillis (Gretel) and director Oz Perkins intrigued me enough that I wanted to see the film upon release. I was especially interested in the idea of presenting the power of women through Hansel and Gretel. To be fair, the Fangoria conversation only contained a few snippets of ideas concerning gender roles in the movie.
Of course, it’s not surprising that the power of women would be a focus in this update of the classic story, and even the title Gretel and Hansel indicate that. Gretel’s name comes first, positioning her as the most important character. This aspect plays out from the very beginning. Gretel is older, and her parents expect her to always look after her brother. In many ways, this is the fairy tale in all its glory. In the story, Gretel does the saving, and the hard work. Why would it be any different in the film?
To get even more explicit about the gifts women wield in this movie, there is a fairy tale within the fairy tale. The inner one, the girl with the pink hat, tells of a little girl who could see the future, and who the villagers loved. This story is Gretel’s favorite. There are probably several reasons for this, but the main one is empathy. Gretel feels she too has special powers, and finds comfort in the tale of the girl with the pink hat.
Gretel & Hansel Power of Women is Awareness
Yes, there is a witch in this movie. And yes, Alice Krige plays her superbly. Of course, it is rare to find a Krige performance that isn’t superb. However, even without the witches, power in this movie exists. It exists in Gretel’s determination and level headed-ness. She is a practical girl, and steadfast, which she demonstrates early in the film. In that instance, she may not have been even keeled, but she was steadfast. These two character traits define her, and set up the central conflict.
There can be no discussion of power without conflict. If there was no conflict, there’d be no need for power. It’s quite simple, really. Gretel and Hansel plays with the idea of power, women, and the multitude of possible conflicts in an interesting way. The witch and Gretel are in a struggle, as are Hansel and Gretel, and finally, Hansel and the witch. It’s not as twisty as I’m making it sound, but it all intertwines heavily.
In addition to innate power of women, Gretel & Hansel also explores the forces at work against them. In Gretel’s case there are her parents, her brother, and the attitude about girls in general. The Huntsman sums it up best when he says something like, “They’ll put you to work rather than use you for more obvious purposes.” It’s a grimy line, but it hits hard.
And the witch tells Gretel that Hansel has poisoned her and will continue to do so as long as he’s around. This is another good example of the challenges women face, specifically men. There are men who will hurt and use you, and there are men who will hold you back. Sometimes, they are one in the same. Most times, in fact.
What’s the Verdict? Is It Any Good?
While I really enjoyed the tension between Gretel, Hansel, and the witch, as well as the exploration of the power of women, I can’t say if this was a good film. Did I enjoy it? I think so. It has good cinematography that helps tell the story. The performances are excellent, an important aspect considering the minimal amount of characters.
However, there’s not a lot of story there. Yes, the filmmakers do a fantastic job with what they have, but it feels padded at times. Maybe padded is the wrong word; maybe wandering is better And there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, the movie is all about quiet introspection. It’s not a modern day special effects extravaganza. Hell, the whole budget was 5 million dollars. A fair representation would be that this feels very much like a theatrical play put into movie form. That is not a criticism, merely an observation.
So, while I cannot say if I liked it or if it was a good movie, I can say I am glad I watched it. It’s a small movie, and it will get small audiences. There were three people in my theater. Yes, it was at 1 pm on a weekday, but it was also discount Tuesdays. That mean’s you get matinee prices all day! But, small movies need support. They need to earn back what they spent. If they can do that, then studios can make more of them. Talk about the power of the consumer vs the power of THE MAN!
If you’re looking for a different take on the classic fairy tale, Gretel & Hansel is a good one because of how it presents and explores the idea of the power of women. Beyond that, it’s a nice change from superheroes, explosions, and snarky quips.
Have you seen it? What did you think? Comment below.