Perhaps you remember that I mentioned a while back the close relationship between Czech and German TV, and the various great productions which came out of it. What also came out of it are a string a really well done Fairy Tale movies, and three of them particularly stick out. One of them is “Jak se budí princezny” (Czech), “Wie man Dornröschen wachküßt” (German) or “Comment on réveille les princesses” (French), which roughly translates to variants of “How to awake a Princess”. Is is the only non-Disney take on Sleeping Beauty which I really like. It’s not really a Christmas movie, though (because of the landscape and the blossoming flowers seen in it, it is usually shown in spring), but it certainly has the magic of one.
This is a really loose take on the story. There are no fairies, instead the queen has an older sister, who curses the child (called Rosa or Ruzenka, depending on the dubbing). According to her, she will prick herself when she is 17, causing herself and the whole kingdom to fall into eternal sleep. The only hope comes from the old servant of the sister, who tells the worried parents that the only thing stronger than death is love.
It follows a fairly ridiculous sequence of the whole kingdom trying to keep Rosa away from anything she could prick herself on. It’s the “Kingdom of the Roses”, but all roses are destroyed. There are guards constantly around Rosa. Even the bones of a fish are treated like a catastrophe. Rosa meanwhile feels overprotected, but she is not outright rebellious. Believing that it will be her rescue, her parents intend to marry her off to a prince from a neighbouring kingdom.
And that’s where the love story comes in. The prince, it turns out, is truly a bragger who has been indulged by his family his whole life. Since everyone always let him win in every competition, he developed an overinflated opinion of himself. His younger brother Jaroslav on the other hand, is a kind young man who wins the attention of Rosa.
Rosa immediately sees through the little charade which has been build around the two princes, and encourages Jaroslav to challenge his brother, who eventually catches on that the interest of the young princess is not focussed on him. He sends Jaroslav away, since he believes to be entitled to marrying her. This way the relationship of the brothers mirrors the relationship of the queen to her sister. In both cases the elder sibling considers himself entitled to the love of someone on the ground of being the older one, in both cases their actions are not about love but about status, and in both cases they fail to get what they want. Rosa calls off the planed marriage. Enraged, the royal family leaves the kingdom.
In a way, that is the “first act” of the story, which is entirely focussed on the budding love between Rosa and Jaroslav, as well as Jaroslav’s complicated relationship with his brother. In the “second act”, the curse is fulfilled (Rosa pricks herself on roses she believes to be a present of Jaroslav), and he learns of her fate and that love is rumoured to be the only rescue. He intends to go to her, against the wishes of his parents who literally imprison him in a tower (well, his bedroom happens to be in one, and he is put under house arrest, but the whole scenario is a little bit amusing). Naturally he escapes, rescues Rosa, and they live happily ever after.
So why do I love this version so much? For one I like the “older sibling/younger sibling” theme, and how in both cases the arrogance of the older sibling isolates them from being truly liked by anyone but their closest family members. I like the landscapes and settings, which are definitely inspired by old fairy tale books. But above all, I like the time which is spend on the relationship between Rosa and Jaroslav. While it is one of those typical three day fairy tale romances, it is easily believe that there is a connection between those two. Especially the following scene is very well done:
The music is by the way written by the great Karel Svoboda, who is responsible for some of the most beautiful melodies I know. And, yes, it certainly does its part to elevate the in its core fairly simple story.
Rosa is not exactly the most layered character imaginable. It is not like she changes that much during the movie, or has hidden depths. But she doesn’t really need to. She is a nice young girl, smart enough to read people correctly and confident enough to express her desires. She is the one who starts the romance between Jaroslav and her. And while Jaroslav is the one in the movie who gets the character development, from timid younger brother to someone who will stand up to his family, it is Rosa’s courage which inspires him.
Quote: “Stärker noch als der Tod, ist die Liebe.” (Stronger than dead is love)
Well, if you happen to speak one of the above mentioned languages and if you like fairy tales, this is a clear recommendation for you. Sadly, though, I don’t think that there is an English version. I know that some of those fairy tales movies are at least available with subtitles, but this one doesn’t seem to be one of them. What I can recommend to everyone though is the soundtrack. It is really beautiful.