Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Turkish Fairytale Theatre: Snow White, Cinderella, and The Wizard of Oz

Merhaba arkadaşlar! You may remember that over the last couple of years I've been training to speak Turkish, and presto! I may not be entirely fluent yet (well, er, at all. I GOT BUSY, ok?!), but my proficiency is bloody tops as we say in Australia, and its only getting better.

Today I'll be looking at some select fantasy films, all sharing not only that common theme, but also the same lead. Zeynep Değirmencioğlu was in a lot of fantasy films, some original, some adaptions, and entertained Turkish audiences with dozens of films.

Pamuk Prenses ve Yedi Cuceler

In a faraway land lives young Pamuk Prenses, who lives with her doting father, the king. He has since remarried after the death of her mother, and has chosen poorly. The new queen barely conceals her contempt, and soon murders her husband, taking the throne for himself. Pamuk is forced to flee, and after faking her death with the help of a sympathetic huntsman, she finds herself in the company of a group of dwarves...

Pamuk Prenses is an adaption of the Snow White story. It's your typical =, but in a good way. This feels like a quintessential telling of the story, from the great costumes and set design, to the neat locations, and the overall appearance and tone. The movie never looks cheap too. Low budget when compared to a Hollywood production, sure, but there's never a moment where the crew bite off more than they can chew.

There are a few issues with the movie though. None that tank it or anything, but are still noticeable. Firstly, the dwarves don't show up until halfway through! Since the film is so well paced, this doesn't hurt too badly, and we're never yelling at the screen wondering when the seven dwarves will show up, but when you look at the runtime and realise they're absent for the whole first half, it does make you wish they'd been introduced a bit earlier.

Another is that the last act is a little rushed and anticlimactic. Pamuk Prenses is barely out for 5 minutes before being revived by the prince. Quite frankly she deserved to be out longer for not noticing all the = stranger danger signs with the evil witch! Speaking of her, the queen's end is disappointing. After giving = the poison apple, she's chased by the dwarves, and 5 seconds later she just falls down a cliff and dies instantly! I was expecting a little more resistance from an evil queen and witch!

The characters here are all memorable enough. They're basic archetypes, but in an effective way. We root for the protagonist through all she goes through, and root against the villain, who's always doing something horrible. The Prince is alright, and interacts decently with the princess. I did question the Prince's efficacy on occasion though, such as when he completely fails to save the hunter, and stands and watches while another prisoner spits at the evil queen and is immediately stabbed to death! Dude, she's a better hero than you, you'd better save her! He doesn't even defeat the villain! The dwarves do all that.

The famous seven dwarves are all here, with their distinct personalities intact. They're not the deepest of characters, but are simple and entertaining.

The cast here do a very nice job. Zeynep Değirmencioğlu is perfect as the innocent princess, getting across that = perfect. The same can be said in reverse for Suna Selen as the evil queen. She's deliciously diabolical, chewing the scenery and is every bit as evil as =. The prince is fine, and the seven dwarves are good, and easily distinguishable from each-other. Also, I can't be sure, but some of them look like children!

This is a great movie for those wishing to speak Turkish too. Everyone speaks clearly, nobody mumbles, and the language might be basic too, given its child-friendly source.

One fairy tale touch I liked to this film is its use of animals! Pamuk Prenses here is your typical animated Disney princess, where adorable animals flock around her. The fact that this is live action makes it impressive they handled so well.

The score is nifty, with a variety of quite good tracks to enjoy, each fitting their respective scenes well. There's spooky, jaunty, adventurous,  and other words =.

Pamuk Prenses is a great retelling of the classical Snow White fairytale, and is a great treat for any bilingual kids, or anyone =...

Külkedisi Sindirella

Külkedisi is a beleaguered young girl forced to live in perpetual servitude with her cruel stepmother and her daughters. Tricked, bullied, and all-round mistreated, the ragged girl takes what little pleasures she can get, until one day she finds the attention of a handsome prince. She runs away, but is given the chance by a benevolent witch to go to a royal ball, and for once get the chance to be somebody special...

Külkedisi Sindirella is a good retelling of the age old tale. It doesn't reinvent the wheel or anything, and there are no real surprises for those familiar with the source material, but as far as portrayals go it's a good one. There's a lot of life in it too that helps it = highly.

The movie is uncomfortable in that way all Cinderella iterations are, with poor Cindy always being bullied and mistreated by her wicked family. Thankfully it never goes overboard, and we see just enough without the movie lingering on anything  It's a shame none of the real adaptions could be as fun as Roald Dahl's version, where the prince just kills all three of them!

The characters here are all introduced to us well, for the most part. Suitably kind or evil, and  getting plenty of screentime. Külkedisi is a sweet and helpful girl, despite her crappy home life. The prince is quite the creeper though! He first meets Cinderella while she bathes half naked in a river/lake, and he immediately falls in love with her, and when she runs away from this strange man, he chases after her! Thankfully he's fine in all future scenes.

The friendly witch of the tale is presented strangely here, as she looks like a cross between an evil witch and a mad scientist. And the moment she makes herself known to Cinderella and friends, they're cowering in fear, while she cackles like a Djinn/Cin! Thankfully she's helpful, and doesn't turn them into stew.

Cinderella gets a lot of friends here she lacks in the original, if memory serves me correctly. She not only has a =, but a gaggle of female dwarf mates. They're a nice addition. They may not have been necessary if you look at it that way, but they play a good role and feel =.

The actual villains are neat. Cruel, deceitful, and =, they're fun to watch, and you look forward to their comeuppance.

The costume design in Külkedisi is very good. The budget for this movie wasn't huge or anything, and this does show here and there, but it's full of colourful costumes that'd make any high school theatre curse. There are spectacular gowns, garish uniforms, and other manner of neat outfits! Although whoever told them sticking sequins on your face is fashionable was sorely mistaken! Some of the costumes I didn't like so much either ,just looking messy. I also   wigs where the proud Turkish actors couldn't be bothered shaving their moustaches, which end up clashing fiercely with the differently coloured hairpieces (unless they were meant to be ornamental?).

Külkedisi moves along well, and the small plot never drags. The
film's weirdest scene is the Gypsy fantasy interlude. It comes out of nowhere, and doesn't really accomplish much. Looks nice though, and Gypsy music is always appreciated!

The music here is fairly standard, and all gets the job done. There's also some German waltzes used to great effect, like The Blue Danube.

Külkedisi Sindirella is a nice enough movie, and a good one to show the kids. If you really wanna mess with them, show it to them without subtitles!...

Ayşecik ve Sihirli Cüceler Rüyalar Ülkesinde

When it comes to fairy tales, I suppose Wizard of Oz technically wouldn't count, but ah, who cares. It's my blog, and god knows the Turks don't worry about rules either!

Ayşe is a happy young girl living on the family farm, when suddenly a hurricane comes, and sweeps the house away. Ayşe and her dog Boncuk soon realise they're not in Anatolia anymore, and traverse the strange new land they're in, meeting new friends along the way-A scarecrow, a tin man, and a cowardly lion.

Its incredibly lengthy title aside, Little Ayşe and the Magic Dwarves in the Land of Dreams is a pretty decent little movie, though while it is interesting, it's not really much of a novelty in terms of a 'crazy foreign ripoff'. As far as adaptions/rip go, it's a pretty straight retelling of The Wizard of Oz. You can't even point at the weirder moments and laugh about how weird those Turks are, because it's from the movie! Still though, while I may think the movie didn't have the same novelty factor as something so off the wall as 3 Dev Adam or Turkish Star Wars, it's still a good movie, and like I said, interesting, because of how it handles the source material.

The majority of this film is a play-by-play remake of The Wizard of Oz, though it's missing some scenes and elements, or others really take their sweet ass time showing up. Where it starts getting [interesting] is in how it's sometimes closer to the original Oz book than the movie! Even down to Dorothy's silver shoes, rather than ruby slippers. = One of the most surprising visual changes is that the Wizard actually looks like a darn wizard! Also instead of speaking through a giant hologram, he speaks through a skull! This wiz doesn't screw around.

Despite these differences, the story is still recognisably the same. The biggest place where it falls down is in the budget. The effects and costumes we see look good. Cheap but convincing, and get the job done. It's the location work that really suffers though. It rarely feels like we're skipping through the magical land of Oz, and more like walking through the regular Turkish wilderness. It's a bit annoying, though I don't hold this too against the movie. As long as it tells an otherwise fine story, you can overlook things like that, even if it can detract from the viewing experience a little.

Where = seems to stretch a little is in the ending. Wizard of Oz is already a bit of a strange movie in that it has two climaxes, but this goes one step further and separates the balloon = and Dorothy]'s = by about 20 minutes. On one hand this actually gives more weight to the moment when she does finally get back home, rather than = missing her chance only to immediately get a do-over 5 seconds later. On the other hand, please end the movie already! It's not like it's boring, or even dragging that badly, but the story's over, so wrap it up already!

The actors playing the = are pretty good, never coming across as annoying, certainly not as annoying as some of the = could be in the original! Ayşecik  is a   lead, with many sweet moments. Her dog Boncuk is so cute too!

While not as much a musical as the original, there are a few songs here, which are quite nice, if played a fair bit.

Ayşecik ve Sihirli Cüceler Rüyalar Ülkesinde is a much better movie than you'd expect! If you're a fan of The Wizard of Oz, it's a must see, and it's a good watch in general...

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