RATING: – 8.0/10.
The power of simplicity is often underrated in modern cinema, even by those who have been its biggest and most successful proponents over the years. There’s just something undeniably powerful about a simple story told honestly, from the heart and without gimmicks. We look to the geniuses of complex, layered, deeply metaphorical cinema like Spike Jonze, Paul Thomas Anderson, Charlie Kaufman, Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino et al to give us the next masterpiece to gape at, films which double and triple back upon themselves and nearly get buried in unfathomable levels of meta and reference. Don’t take me wrong, I love these people and adore their work. But there’s another school of filmmaking that often doesn’t get the attention and adulation it deserves. And that’s Disney.
Disney doesn’t believe in snark. Disney doesn’t do non-linear storylines. Disney is not bohemian or postmodern or hipster. Disney doesn’t deal in novelty. Disney deals in myths and fables. It honors a classicist tradition of storytelling; one where our knowledge of what is likely to happen does not necessarily bore us. It doesn’t matter what’s happening so much as how it’s happening. The stories Disney tells are the oldest ones in the book, we know them all by heart, stories of friendship, of family, of resilience, of good versus evil, of nature, of talking animals and magic. It’s how they tell their stories that matters.
FROZEN is a wonderful addition to the already extraordinary Disney canon, a deftly written tale of sisterhood, love and shutting yourself off from the idea of it, animated with breathtaking skill and finesse, and populated with wonderful songs. It tells the tale of the kingdom of Arendelle, where Princesses Elsa and Anna are best friends. Elsa has a special power. She can conjure ice out of thin air and do anything she wants with it. While playing around with her powers, Elsa hits Anna with a burst of icy magic which nearly kills her. Her well-meaning but helplessly bewildered parents distance the two children and begin to teach Elsa the motto of “Conceal, don’t feel”, as Elsa begins to build a wall of ice around her heart to match the magic in her veins. But tragedy beckons as the King and Queen soon perish in a maritime accident. Years later, on Elsa’s coronation day, a chance event makes Elsa lose control and she inadvertently throws the whole land into an eternal winter. Terrified by her own powers and what she might do, she flees to the North Mountain where she fashions an ice palace for herself and vows to never return to her home again. But Anna won’t let her leave so easily and sets out on a quest to bring back her sister.
FROZEN is also sort of a feminist benchmark for Disney. Neither of its two fully fleshed-out heroines are stereotypes in any sense of the term, nor do they wait around for the men in their lives to do their work for them. They’re scrappy and weird and fun and don’t mind if they don’t look so regal all the time. Just because they’re princesses doesn’t mean they have to be gushy or girly all the time. Of course, their happily ever-afters are never really complete without their heroic hunks, but it’s unfair to begrudge them that – there is poignancy and beauty in tradition too. A Disney adaptation of The Feminine Mystique just wouldn’t make sense. But it’s interesting to note that the resolution is provided not by romantic attachment but by sisterly love.
The animation is devastatingly gorgeous. The frozen palace of exile, in particular, is awe-inspiring in its grandeur, particularly in 3D. The fjords and the castles and the forests are impeccably rendered. The music section, too, really outdo themselves. Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez give us some instantly hummable, dramatic songs, of which “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” and “Let It Go” really take the cake. Poignant, heartfelt, beautifully performed, the music provides the heart and soul of the movie.
The first act of the film up until the self-imposed exile of Elsa, is so perfect, that the rest of the film suffers a little by comparison. Sometimes, especially near the end, it seems to lag a bit and not all the scenes have the same kind of bite. But you’re apt to forget all of that in the sheer deluge of childlike joy that the film has in abundance. It’s a Disney movie, after all.
I remember asking my grandmother many a time to tell me stories she had already told me before. I wanted to hear them again. There was a kind of comfort in the familiarity, in the knowledge that the good guys end up happy and that I don’t need to worry about them. But there was always the thrill when they passed through the perils of their journey, the elation at their success. That’s what Disney does best – recreate the stories of our childhood and find the universality in them, the timeless elegance and wisdom behind them. FROZEN is a story as old as the hills and its moral just as familiar, but perhaps something that we need to be reminded of from time to time – Love is all you need.