Violence, Pacifism, and Religion in Medieval Fantasy Television and Film
So I had been meaning to go see Snow White And the Huntsman inspite of my doubts about Kristen Stewart‘s ability to act. Unlike fellow blogger Amanda who was disappointed with Mirror Mirror (yah I wasted my time with that 1 too!), this movie was just the opposite. It was actually a surprise.
Oh, and *MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!*
First, for the religious overtones. In the Middle Ages, in spite of what George R.R. Martin may conjure up, the Christian church was at the center of life back then. I am not trying to brag or be triumphalist, it’s just a fact. In some versions of fairy tales about Snow White, she is described as being pious ( I have no idea what the relationship between Snow White and the tale of Snow White and Rose Red). The first religious imagery we see are the priests that stand in approval of the marriage of Snow White’s father The King to the wicked Ravenna at the wedding ceremony. Later, a few years after Ravenna has murdered the King and placed Snow in prison, young Snow can be seen kneeling, saying the Lord’s Prayer. Throughout the film, what looks a lot like mockingbirds or black birds (symbols of divine providence in stories such as Elijah in 1st Kings 17) show Snow White where to find the nail that helps her to escape, the white horse she finds along the way, as well as the Great White Elk. The very last piece of religious imagery we see is that the Huntsman, as Snow White lays dying, tells her that she is among the angels as a queen.
A bit of possible clarification is Snow White’s chosenness as “The One.” At the beginning of the film, it is Snow’s mother that hopes that she has a daughter, one of pure of heart as white as snow. In other words, the King needed someone as just and fair as himself to continue his legacy. In the world of SWATH, virtue is biologically inherited by blood. This is why only Snow White (being born of a man just, “fair blood”) can defeat the Queen Ravenna, who was cursed by her sorceress mother. This is why Snow says that she does not hate Ravenna any longer, but has sympathy for her.
There was partly an ecological message, when Ravenna comes to power, with her greed and avarice, the Enchanted Forest becomes the Dark Forest. Greed in human nature corrupts the animals and plants around us. As Snow discovers, magic is all around us, in the trees, and therefore all of creation has dignity.
Lastly, I must say that the monologue that Snow White gives after waking up from her slumber is not that articulate. It was awkward, and for about 3 minutes, I did not know what was going on until Snow says, “Who will be my brother?,” meaning a call to arms. After being the victim for a vast majority of the movie, passive and quiet (except for when she confronted the Troll in the Dark Forest), the conversion to a femme fatale warlord was not as believeable as I had hoped. I must say the movie left room for a possible interpretation whereas instead of being a metaphor of a girl’s step into womanhood and being a bride, erotic love is replaced with war and violence. Snow White, like her father who is meek (but still a soldier), goes through the Dark Forest to sacrifice her innocence and unfamiliarity with battle in order to become the leader of a revolution.
Of course, at the end, when Snow White mourns the death of Ravenna, Snow’s death blow could be seen as an act of mercy to end Ravenna’s insanity. IMHO, I see that there is a potential lesson here, that our enemies are still human, and that is more in line with pacifist logic. No doubt if Ravenna and Snow had been characters in a comparable fantasy world like Game Of Thrones, Ravenna would have been beheaded or worst.
Perhaps instead of having Snow White grow up so fast, young Snow White should have been featured more to give the movie more of the dramatic change that the character Snow called for. Great visual effects and artistry, but Snow’s speech post-dying just ruined the movie’s flow as a whole.
All in all, I give Snow White and the Huntsman 3 and a Half Angry Puppies out of 5.
(you can only guess the angry puppy reference)