The story of Hansel and Gretel has gone through numerous guises over the years before it settled in the form that we know today courtesy of The Brothers Grimm, Wilhelm and Jacob, and their collection of folklore during the 19th Century.
In fact, the initial story as we know it was told to the brothers by Henriette Dorothea Wild, who would go on to marry Wilhelm.
Throughout the years, there have been some common elements that have held true; the two siblings abandoned in the woods, the path of breadcrumbs, famine, the children’s inner strength and cunning, and of course… a cannibalistic witch.
Upon the release of the film, it was noted the deliberate switch in the order of the siblings with Gretel taking top billing and for good reason, for this is her tale to tell. It also ties in with a theme that Perkins likes to dabble in, that of the suppressed female, struggling to find her identity in a strange or foreign world.
It also combines Perkins fascination with the occult and the dark underbelly that lay under the world as we know it, waiting to ignite from the spark of curiosity, ignorance, or both.
Taking on the role of Gretel is Sophia Lillis who rose to fame as Beverly Marsh in 2017’s IT, directed by Andy Muschietti. Lillis takes the role in her stride as a girl forced to come into womanhood by an oppressive society and is required to endure total compliance on the slim chance that her family will reap the benefits. Not willing to live this kind of life, Gretel choses to steal away from her family home and the lack of love and support from her mother, taking her brother, Hansel with her.
Here the familiarity of the story sets in when Gretel and Hansel try to make ends meet in the wilderness, and Gretel continues to abate her brother’s wishes to return.
Eventually they come across the witch’s house and the promise of new things to come. The Witch (played by the magnificent Alice Krige) is both wily and manipulative, with plans to consume Hansel, but is equally enamoured by Gretel, teaching her the ways of her craft. Will she be able to convert Gretel into her domain or can Gretel turn the tide of evil and save them from their torment?
Oz Perkins delivers another visually strong narrative, weaving a traditional folk story with a modern mindset. Perkins is a director who isn’t shy from female empowerment in his storytelling and Sophia Lillis proves once again that she can delicately handle the subtleties of human emotion that bely her years.
If there is a hindrance is that Perkins is also a ‘slow burn’ storyteller and provides a hypnotic snail like pace to his movies. His previous two ventures suited the atmosphere that he wanted to evoke, and in some cases it works here, but equally the tempo is so slow and drawn out that it can be painful and laborious to watch.
I honestly wasn’t sure if I would write a positive account of the movie after viewing it as a result, and yet it lingers with you, which is a testament to the director and his visual playground.
- Saul Muerte