…and the quest to see everything

Best Shot: Snow White and…

Walt Disney and crew’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, this week’s featured movie in Nathaniel’s Best Shot series, doesn’t really suggest images to me but acceleration. There’s this slowness to their movements but there’s this jolt of urgency to them as the movie progresses. The characters are also the only solid blocks of colour, the opposite of their Medieval-styled ornate surroundings. Here are some of my favourite shots.

Ok, this image is more of a static and and I didn’t even feel like including this because it feels like I’m just repeating my Black Narcissus best shot. Springtime is for lovers and Disney’s version puts us smack dab in the middle of the story as opposed to taking us to Snow White’s parents, etc. I know you know the story but the original Grimm Brothers’ tale is about Snow White’s growth as a domestic and sexual being, as well as the Evil Queen being Snow White’s mother and the Prince being the father, if I haven’t ruined your childhood yet. Anyway, this shot reminds me of the movie’s operatic structure, this tenor complementing Snow White’s coloratura. There’s also the Medieval costume’s drapery being very creamy throughout the film, influencing how we see these characters’ movement and posture. He’s not as effete as most of the Disney princes but those shoes look like they can walk on water.

Just like her suitor’s footwear, Snow White represents the daintiness of womanhood that earlier literature – and 1937 counts as ‘early’ – propagates, going through the woods and surviving while wearing pumps. She glides on surfaces instead of touching them like normal humans. She finds refuge from her homicidal (step)mother in the most hopeful of places. However it’s strange how these strangers can carve wood for their houses but find no time to dust heir house. Digging all day is not an excuse. It’s also more infuriating that her ragged state while shining the Queen’s Palace’s front steps is framed as slavery but cleaning for a bunch of dudes is totally ok. But we’ll give her brownie points for venturing into the cottage on her own and leveraging her lodgings and influencing the dwarfs’ eating habits. But that still feels codependent.

But can I really begrudge such people, even if they scare me more now than I did when I was a child? The dwarfs, by the way, probably start the tradition of fairy tale creatures as surrogate husbands, later prototypes of which include the original “Peter Pan.” This shot is my best shot simply because it will begin my quest to decide which dwarf is which. Doc, Dopey and Grumpy are the most constant characters so they’re the easiest to tell but to know the others I had to look into their eyes, which is nearly impossible if they’re moving too fast and freaking out while they’re imagining a monster sleeping in their beds. Thank God I eventually used the pause button. Also, this shot is one of the few examples that show how these characters have no bones in their bodies. They’re swift yet also graceful.

And finally the shot of the Queen. This scene is the Wicked Stepmother’s Lady MacBeth moment, having to take away her own femininity to make herself do the evil deeds that she believes must be done. The hoarseness within the voice actress becomes externalized, her slim figure becoming more brittle. This also baffles me after this recent rewatch because she is getting herself ugly to defeat the young woman more beautiful than her. Eventually she poisons the princess, their only onscreen encounter which is surprisingly not hostile.

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4 responses

  1. ” This also baffles me after this recent rewatch because she is getting herself ugly to defeat the young woman more beautiful than her. ”

    That was going to be the subject of my post, and then I realised that this is a best shot essay not a thematic dissertation, but yes it is odd. The fact that you can’t easily differentiate between the other dwarves only underscores how non-specific these characters are for me.

    April 11, 2012 at 10:08 pm

  2. yaykisspurr

    I think most evil things creep into our lives until we accept them as the status quo. It’s degradation if you will from the inside out. Many times a figure of evil will cause a person to rise to the occasion, so the former is much more clever. It really is amazing how Disney and his crew understood good and evil back then. I think today out views are rather brittle and well not reality, as if the overexposure to such sends us crawling back to the womb. hehe, Cheers!

    April 14, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    • That’s a very interesting perspective. Contemporary narratives want to make good and evil more complex and make divisions between characters one-sided. That’s probably why Disney still scares – because they’re not afraid of the extremes.

      April 16, 2012 at 1:00 am

      • yaykisspurr

        what do you mean by “make divisions between characters one-sided?”

        April 16, 2012 at 12:25 pm

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