Дикие лебеди (The Wild Swans)
99 in x of animated feature film history
Country: Soviet Union
Director: Vera Tsekhanovskaya, Mikhail Tsekhanovsky
“The Wild Swans was directed by the husband-and-wife team of Mikhail Tsekhanovsky and Vera Tsekhanovskaya. The film is based on the story of the same name by Hans Christian Andersen. Unusual for Soviet films of this period, and especially for animated films, it was filmed in widescreen. It was produced at the Soyuzmultfilm studio in Moscow.
Princess Elisa and her eleven brothers live in peace and happiness until their father, King Henry, brings home a new queen named Hildegard. She turns out to be an evil witch. With her magic, she tries to curse Elisa, but Elisa’s good heart repel the curses. Instead, the queen resorts to blackening Elisa’s face and dirtying her hair, making her unrecognizable. The queen also attempts to turn the eleven princes into black, ugly birds, but because of their good hearts, the curse is only partly successful: they turn into beautiful, white swans. The queen chases them out of the castle, and the next morning, Elisa is chased out as well because her father mistakes her for a Romani (g*psy) girl. Left with nothing, she sets out to find her brothers. After many years, she finally finds them, and after learning from a crow that the curse can be broken, she has to knit eleven sweaters out of tall, burning nettles, and has to remain silent. While she works on the sweaters, she meets a prince who falls in love with her and lets her live in his castle. Here, a bishop conspires with the queen to get rid of her by making people think she is a witch. She is almost burnt on the stake, but at the last second, her brothers come to the rescue. She throws the sweaters over them, the curse is lifted, and she is able to tell her story and return the prince’s love.”
The film heavily emphasizes the dichotomy of white and black as good and evil. This has a negative racial subtext in the case of Elisa’s darkened skin and hair.
The Wild Swans is available on YouTube.
FIRST POSTED: 7/11/16