Wednesday, March 23, 2011
And it's their shortest, too! Only one paragraph long. In German it's called "das eigensinnige Kind." In English it's called:
THE STUBBORN CHILD
From The Brothers Grimm, translated by Maria Tatar
There once lived a stubborn child, and she never did what her mother told her to do. And so our dear Lord did not look kindly on her, and let her become ill. Doctors could not cure her, and before long she was lying on her deathbed. Her coffin was being lowered into the grave and they were about to cover it with earth when suddenly one of her little arms emerged and reached up into the air. They pushed it back in again and covered the coffin with more earth, but it was no use. The little arm kept reaching out of the grave. Finally her mother had to go to the grave and strike the little arm with a switch. After she did that, the arm withdrew, and the child finally began to rest in peace beneath the earth.
Thanks to Dr. Psycho at the Childhood Fear site for the nifty graphic:
Monday, January 04, 2010
Here's three clips (above and below) of the Baryshnikov/American Ballet Theater version of "The Nutcracker." Together they add up to about 22 minutes, an eternity if you don't like ballet, and a frustratingly short time if you do. I do like it, particularly this version. It's so full of ideas!
For me this is a partly a story of initation into aristocratic secrets and values, and in that it sense it resembles Mozart's "Magic Flute". Of course in Magic Flute the theme was pretty much spelled out, and here it's only hinted at. I don't offer much evidence for this, I just talk about the way sequences make me feel, so I won't be surprised if some people disagree. That's okay. Part of the fun of art is the arguments you have after seeing it.
So let's get on with it. Here's what I'm seeing when I watch this ballet....
The opening narration introduces us to an overview of the Christmas party and the visit of Uncle Drosselmeyer, a mysterious bussinessman/scientist/wizard. Drosselmeyer distributes gifts to the children then: "Finally the surprise gift, the Nutcracker doll that Drosselmeyer creates for his favorite grandchild, Clara. With this gift Clara will enter an enchanted world where her beloved toy is transformed into a beautiful prince. Tonight is a special night for Clara. She's about to receive the gift of a dream."
The dance music at the party is charming and beautiful but is always threatening to transform into something serious and overwhelming, and constantly has to be roped back. You get the feeling that Tchaikovsky wants us to be aware of titanic forces that underlie the events of ordinary life, or maybe the mysterious nature of music itself, which always seems to demand an escalation of seriousness with every repeated phrase.
This is especially evident in the line dance which threatens to overwhelm us with power, but which is restrained by the composer from doing so. Even the incredibly cute dance of the boy soldiers threatens to get big and serious as it goes on, with one boy taking command and deftly brandishing a swinging saber.
Drosselmeyer enters and interrupts all this to test Clara by dancing with her to see if she's still in possession of the aristocratic virtues he prizes, those of self-discipline, charm, intelligence, idealism and earnestness. She is.
Satisfied that Clara, and to some extent the other kids, have passed the test and are ready for what comes next, Drosselmeyer presents his gifts. Among them are three mysterious and vaguely menacing wind-up dolls. The first is a harlequin, which executes a fun dance, but which knows nothing else of the world but fun. The second one is a dumb and awkward ballerina. She seems more human than the harlequin and is a disturbing reminder of the sluggish automaton in each of us that threatens to overwhelm our better selves. The third doll is the wild card, the exotic randomizer...the amoral barbarian with boundless energy for both good and evil.
With these dolls Drosselmeyer introduces the kids and us to the three hidden forces in the world, the three things everybody in the know will have to deal with in life.
Well, that's it...the secret message embedded in The Nutcracker. I wish I could have included a clip showing Baryshnikov as the nutcracker, and his amazing transformation into wakefulness and life. It would also have been nice to see his fight with the Mouse King, too. Oh, well. YouTube didn't have it, and the other video versions of this sequence weren't very good, so there's no use putting them here. I put up a charming video clip showing kids rehearsing for a kid version of The Nutcracker but that clip and another one vanished after I put them up. That's because I'm using a new beta version of Blogger, and it's still buggy.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
A few years ago a writer at a well known animation studio sent this memo to his boss. It asked the question, "If Jack and the Beanstalk were written today, at this studio, would it get approved?" The writer imagines that yes, it would be, but only if the following changes were made (below, click to enlarge):
Nifty, huh? My copy of this memo cuts off the name of the writer, but I'll gladly give him an author's credit if he writes in and identifies himself.